Renters Overtake Homeowners in Suburbs

Homeownership has been a mainstay in suburban areas, where the typical house is a single-family residence or possibly a duplex. Residents in these areas have tended to be middle- or high-income earners. All of this is starting to change as the demographic is switching to Millennials and Gen Z homeowners. The majority of residents in suburbs are now renters, unable to afford to purchase a home.

Millennials and older Gen Z people inherited the effects of the Great Recession, which delayed their careers and consequently their ability to own a home. This also compounded with student debt, since Millennials are a highly educated generation. All the while, prices are increasing but wage growth is stagnant. While some of these people recovered somewhat since the Great Recession, others were still trying to get back on their feet or were just entering the job market when the 2020 recession hit. Most of Gen Z is still not old enough to own a home, so it’s unclear whether this would extend to them as well.

Photo by Dhru J on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-suburbs-flip-as-millennials-and-gen-zs-become-majority-renters/

End of Forbearance Plans Could Swing the Market

With the foreclosure moratorium ending, the only thing keeping many homeowners in their homes is a forbearance plan. Once those end, the effects on the market could be drastic. The good thing is that it’s easy to predict when that will happen, since forbearance plans have a designated end date. Many of them have already ended in the past two months, but we will continue to see more ending throughout the rest of the year.

One of the effects of a large increase in foreclosures or forced sales is plain to see, and that is an increase in inventory. With inventory being so low right now, one could be forgiven for thinking that’s what the market needs. But it most certainly is not. Let’s take a look at the reasons demand is so high right now: low interest rates, and the fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) mentality that buyers have when inventory is low. Interest rates are going back up now, so that’s no longer an incentive to buy. If inventory increases drastically, FOMO won’t be a factor either. Foreclosures and forced sales will remove all incentive to purchase while increasing inventory considerably, causing a full swing in the market. But that’s not all. People living in foreclosed-on homes aren’t just statistics; they are actual people, and their increased economic struggles will only make it more difficult to reach a recovery point in the recession.

Photo by Ruslan Khadyev on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/how-1-5-million-homeowners-exiting-forbearance-will-impact-inventory/79744/

Today’s Housing Bubble Will Likely Deflate — Not Pop

There are many similarities and also many differences between the current recession and the Great Recession of 2008. Two of the core similarities — and the ones that define a housing bubble — are that prices are accelerating faster than purchasing power, and that there are changes in consumer values. While legislation and shifting values have addressed some of the issues that contributed to the Great Recession, most notably subprime lending, ultimately the crisis was a relatively natural economic response to the events that triggered it and followed a normal boom-bust-rebound cycle. The 2020 recession is somewhat of a reflection of this, though the specifics differ. The economy was already headed towards a natural downturn in the cycle, but the process was sped up by the COVID pandemic.

That’s where the similarities end, though. While nearly everything is ultimately tied to the economy in some way, it’s the pandemic, more so than economic conditions, that prompted valuation changes. Preference for larger homes and home entertainment, rather than homes closer to work and out-of-home entertainment, will probably continue as long as work-from-home remains a common practice, which will likely last a while. It’s true that people are leaving large cities and moving to cheaper areas, but this is more so out of necessity than desire. Peoples’ tastes have actually become more expensive, even if their wallet isn’t any larger. An economic downturn wouldn’t prompt this behavior. The only reason this isn’t currently sustainable is that the market hasn’t recovered yet. Once it does, probably around 2024-2025, it’s likely that the bubble will slowly deflate rather than explode.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/shifting-fundamentals-what-2008-can-teach-agents-about-2021/79690/

Recession Declared Over, But We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a private non-profit economic research institution well known for researching recessions, has declared that the 2020 recession is over. In fact, it ended quite a while ago, and only lasted two months, the shortest recession in history. NBER defines the start of a recession as the month following a peak in economic activity, and the end of a recession as the month at the bottom of economic activity. In this case, those months were March 2020 and April 2020 respectively. The delay in declaration is because it generally takes several months to figure out whether a recession is truly over or not, since there can be ups and downs in between the peak and trough. With this declaration, another downturn would officially be considered a separate recession.

So what does this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean the economy is healthy again. It just means we’re past the worst of it, and are in the recovery stage after the recession. We’ve been in recovery for quite some time, and will continue to be. It’s important to note that while the start of the pandemic and the start of the recession occurred at approximately the same time, they aren’t codependent. Rather, the pandemic was merely an exacerbating factor in a recession that was already approaching. Many of the effects, both psychological and government mandated, of the combined scare of a simultaneous recession and pandemic are still lingering and slowing down the recovery. The major factor keeping us back is lack of recovery in the job market.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/the-2020-recession-was-the-shortest-ever-but-its-effects-continue-in-the-housing-market/78835/

End of Utility Disconnection Moratorium Could Spell Trouble

Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) imposed a moratorium on utility disconnects for nonpayment. The CPUC moratorium applies to both residential and commercial buildings, and they regulate the majority of electric and gas companies. However, this moratorium is slated to end July 1st, and the total amount owed is fast approaching $2 billion.

Utility companies aren’t about to simply forgive all of these charges. Fortunately, they’re thinking of plans that can help people balance their debts without owing large lump sums. Possibilities include partial forgiveness and/or rate categories, or even full forgiveness for qualifying households. California is also working on including utility aid in their state budget plan.

Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

More: https://patch.com/california/redondobeach/s/hlwq5/unpaid-ca-utility-bills-approaching-2-billion-survey

Not All Recessions Are Created Equal

The real estate climate is currently in a state of rapidly rising prices, while in the midst of a recession. Some people are having flashbacks to the Great Recession of 2007 and fearing a housing bubble and imminent crash. But there are some important factors that make this nightmare not a likely reality.

Leading up to 2007, there was an overabundance of supply due to high rates of construction. Loose lending practices were the trigger, as they resulted in mass foreclosures and subsequent drop in demand, making sellers who were liable for foreclosure unable to find buyers to get them out of their hole. This is the opposite of what’s happening now. Supply is incredibly low due to a lack of construction, and buyers are facing cutthroat competition. There are no foreclosures happening right now because of the foreclosure moratorium. Even when the moratorium ends, the number at risk of foreclosure is much lower.

In some ways the real estate market is actually a strong point of the current economy, despite the recession. So a housing bubble isn’t to be expected. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the water; the recession still exists. And it’s not going away until job recovery happens, which isn’t expected until 2024-2025.

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/pricing-crash-or-near-miss-the-factors-different-from-the-last-recession/77815/

Current Hot Market May Not Be Sustainable

After lockdowns ended, the real estate market was inundated with prospective buyers who seemed to be itching to take advantage of low interest rates. Interest rates have started to climb back up, yet demand currently shows no signs of slowing, despite continuously rising prices. So what’s the actual reason demand is high, and perhaps more importantly, is it a good reason?

The stimulus packages are a likely culprit. A government stimulus is always going to effect short-term change, but its goal is also long-term change. This is done by a multiplier effect — when people have more money to spend, they spend more, which causes the money to recirculate and improve GDP. However, it’s important to realize what the money is being spent on. Between a quarter and 40% of stimulus money was spent on food, household goods, and debt, and much of the remainder was saved. The stimulus certainly helped people to get through the recession, but it didn’t actually do much to improve the economy as a whole.

From the outside, the real estate market looks like it’s recovering, since it’s becoming more competitive when there isn’t much reason for it to be any longer. In reality, most of the people who can afford to buy right now could already afford to buy before the pandemic, and the rest are perhaps falsely optimistic. The primary factor that can result in long term recovery hasn’t happened yet, and that’s job recovery. The job market isn’t expected to recover until 2025, long after the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums end.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/riding-the-stimulus-wave-when-will-it-end-for-real-estate/77854/

Mortgages Keep Market Competitive Despite Lack of Job Recovery

2020 saw a large increase in mortgage originations, particularly refinances, as a result of low interest rates. It was expected that this would start to fall off in 2021, since interest rates are starting to go back up. However, they’re still low enough that refinances continue to be common. The statistics are a bit misleading for purchases, though. Low inventory is boosting home prices, accounting for a significant part of the increase in loan origination dollar amount even beyond increasing the number of loans originated.

Something is still missing, though. Even though much fewer loans are delinquent now than in 2020, the share of them that are over 90 days delinquent is increasing. This is because people continue to tread water through moratoriums, but aren’t earning any money. Jobs still haven’t recovered from 2020. Foreclosure moratoriums and forbearance programs are going to end eventually, and that’s going to be a problem for some people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and haven’t been able to find work yet. If home prices continue to rise without an actual jobs solution, these stopgap measures are going to be the proverbial dam that causes the market to crash when it breaks.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/mortgage-originations-will-2021-shatter-2020s-record/77747/

More Measures Needed to Protect Jobs During Eviction Moratorium

The eviction moratorium has received multiple extensions, buying tenants some time to gather necessary funds. Unfortunately, buying them time doesn’t actually aid them in getting funds, and all the while, landlords are also missing a portion of their income. There is no plan for loss mitigation. SB-91 may help somewhat — it allows landlords to acquire 80% of their rent payments via federal funds by waiving the remaining balance. However, this law exists only in California, and doesn’t apply to all rental situations.

Landlords do have another way to mitigate their losses, but it’s not a good option. Landlords who are close enough to do the job themselves could reduce their costs by laying off their property managers and maintenance staff. This doesn’t help anyone, though, and results in increased job losses. While landlords definitely do take a risk in getting a mortgage on a rental property, currently their best recourse to offload that risk is in ways that do nothing to aid a recovery and instead exacerbate job losses. It may be tempting to let risky investments fail, but at the same time, it could be worthwhile to also give landlords as well as tenants some breathing room to avoid worsening the issue.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/the-eviction-moratorium-extension-a-band-aid-solution-for-a-gunshot-wound/77162/

Despite Rebound, Job Future Not As Bright As It May Seem

With the pandemic creating an employment nightmare, the unemployment rate has been a closely watched statistic. Employment is still below pre-pandemic levels, but has rebounded fairly well. That may be giving us false hope, though, since there are other jobs-related statistics to consider.

In a previous article (https://www.carlandarda.com/?p=1370) we looked at the difference between employment rate, measuring what percentage of those in the labor force have jobs, and labor force participation rate, measuring what percentage of people are able to hold jobs, whether they currently do or not. We already saw there that LFP dropped as a result of the pandemic, indirectly reducing the unemployment rate without actually creating jobs.

But there’s another statistic that sheds some light on what the pandemic has done to the jobs market. The long-term unemployment rate specifically measures what percentage of those looking for a job have been searching for 27 weeks or more. Before this recession, the LTU rate has been around 20%. This means that 80% of unemployed people were finding jobs, retiring, or giving up entirely within six months. This rate has been going up rapidly and was at 37% as of November 2020. Not only have more people given up or been forced into retirement, but more of those still searching for jobs aren’t able to find one quickly.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/2020s-rebounding-jobs-market-masks-deeper-troubles-for-real-estate-in-2021/75571/

Most Younger Generations Still Can’t Afford to Buy

Many would-be homeowners in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are going to need to wait. Despite the fact that some who wished to buy are instead renting, apartment vacancies are on the rise as 27.7 million have moved back in with parents or other relatives, if they ever left home at all. The good news is that this number is dropping, but only the luckiest of them will be able to snatch an opportunity in the coming months amid heavy competition.

11% of renters were excited to make the transition to homeownership in the beginning of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession squashed those dreams for many of them. Those who experienced income loss as a result of the pandemic are twice as likely to have trouble with paying bills, rent, or mortgage, or need to withdraw savings or retirement or borrow from friends or family. That isn’t the whole of the problem, though: California has been lacking affordable housing for decades as a result of mere population growth, an issue that was only accelerated by the recession and lockdowns, which have slowed or halted construction.

Photo by Georg Bommeli on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/homeownership-remains-elusive-for-young-adults-amid-recession/74939/

The K-Shaped Recovery: What Is It?

You’ve probably heard of a W-shaped recovery, even if you don’t know what it means. This refers to a false start in recovery, whereby the economy is improving in one sector, but doesn’t have the momentum to continue recovering, so it wobbles a bit. This has been what experts believed the current recovery would be like. Now, though, some people are wanting to call the recession and recovery K-shaped. What does this mean? It means that some sectors will recover and retain their momentum, while other sectors haven’t yet left the recession and continue downward. In other words, the recession has very clearly disproportionately affected various groups.

More specifically, this recession has had comparatively little impact on wealthy individuals. People with higher paying jobs are more likely to work in fields that can be done from home, so they haven’t been out of work during the pandemic. People who have the capital to invest in stocks as their primary means of income don’t have to worry so much about the pandemic, since stocks can’t get sick. They’ve actually been on an upward trend since before the lockdowns even began. Even those higher-income workers who did experience losses won’t have as much necessary expenditure proportional to income as those living paycheck to paycheck. This means that the recession has significantly widened the already large income inequality gap.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/2020-recession-stretches-income-inequality/74733/

Real Estate Speculation Expected to Rise

As with any recession, at some point the direction of prices is going to change. In most cases, real estate speculators purchase at low prices so they can later sell at a higher price. Currently, speculators are most likely to be sellers, not buyers, since home prices are already high, and are expected to decrease in 2021 as sales volume continues to drop. Once prices start dropping, as buyers are waiting for prices to bottom out, sellers are looking to sell as quickly as possible to get the most money. With more seller willingness, buyer speculators are also coming in 2021.

Given the current high buyer demand, a sudden increase in seller willingness is going to look like the beginning of a recovery. Don’t be fooled by this. Speculators are generally people who can afford to be wrong. This increase in activity is not going to be a result of a stabilizing economy, but of opportunists who were largely unaffected by the recession wanting quick sales. Speculators generally only constitute 20% of buyers. For an actual recovery, the rest of the populace needs a stable income. That means job recovery, which isn’t expected until 2023.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/prepare-now-for-the-return-of-real-estate-speculators/73795/

Job recovery will be slower than expected

Reports demonstrate record job gains in California in the last few months, nearly 700,000. But that doesn’t mean we’re actually making new jobs. It means that we lost so many jobs this year that even recovering a small percentage of them is going to look like a large number. There were actually over 2.7 million jobs lost in California between December 2019 and April 2020, significantly more than were lost in two years during the 2008 recession. So we’re still a long way off from returning to the December 2019 peak, let alone generating new jobs.

Federal assistance has been necessary to keep the economy floating, but it’s also been inadequate. We’re going to need a lot more help. A COVID-19 vaccine is a solid step, allowing more people to return to work. It’s not going to be enough, though, since the economy was already on a downward trend before COVID-19 — recall that the peak was December 2019, three months before the lockdowns. The recovery is expected to be W-shaped, with some unstable gains from now through 2021, and no clear upward trend until 2022 or 2023. Even then, job recovery will have just started, and the real estate market is going to need even more time after jobs start back up.

Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/job-losses-will-inevitably-continue/73104/

Despite fierce competition, it’s not indicative of recovery

Throughout California, homes are selling quickly. 46% of homes are on the market less than two weeks. Using data from Redfin, 54% of offers were contested. The breakdown by region is 67% in the San Francisco/San Jose area, 65% in San Diego, 58% in Los Angeles, and 47% in Sacramento. However, don’t mistake this for a healthy market — we’re still in a transition period.

The actual reason for low days-on-market is a combination of high buyer demand, due to low interest rates, and low inventory. Those who are able to buy correctly recognize this as a great time to do so if you are able to afford it, and are scrambling to get at what few properties are available for sale. Even the high demand, though, is merely high relative to inventory — there still aren’t very many people who are able to afford a purchase right now. Whether or not we get a COVID-19 vaccine before then, the housing market won’t properly right itself until the job market stabilizes. The expectation is that this won’t happen until 2022 or 2023.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/summer-2020s-unseasonably-hot-housing-market/72921/

Here’s why house prices are still high despite the recession

It may seem intuitive to look at past recessions, such as the one in 2008, to predict the market during the current recession. But that doesn’t always work, since the circumstances surrounding the downturn may be different. In 2008, what caused home prices to drop was reduced buyer demand and increased foreclosures and short sales. Now in 2020, that’s not happening.

Buyer demand is actually relatively high right now, as a result of interest rates being low. The Fed decreased interest rates in 2019 in expectation of a recession. They were right, of course, but couldn’t have predicted the exacerbating effect that COVID-19 would have. Interest rates can’t get much lower without the Fed going negative, so the market doesn’t have anywhere to go. Foreclosures may be on the horizon if federal and state governments don’t maintain protections. But for the time being, there’s a moratorium on most foreclosures, so there’s no need to drop home prices. Another factor is the lack of construction. With fewer homes being built, especially in the form of affordable housing, low inventory means there’s no competitive pressure on sellers to reduce prices.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/letter-to-the-editor-why-are-prices-still-rising-even-though-were-in-a-recession/72735/

Predictions for the 2020 recession’s impact on inventory

The real estate journal First Tuesday asked readers in July how they felt the 2020 recession would impact for-sale inventory. The votes are now in.

A plurality of respondents, 45%, felt inventory would go down. This would likely be a result of both anxiety from sellers and not enough construction. However, the number who instead felt construction would increase and there would be rental vacancies, leading to more listings, was 39%, not too far off from the plurality. The third and final category, those who felt there would be little to no impact, totalled 16%.

But that was July. It’s now August, and there certainly has been an impact. It turns out the 45% were right. Inventory has declined steeply, and construction companies are even more wary about building than they already were before the pandemic. Fortunately, declining rental vacancies points to an increase in inventory as soon as construction starts back up. Changes to California zoning laws also hope to speed up construction.

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/the-votes-are-in-how-the-2020-recession-impacts-californias-for-sale-inventory/72705/

Housing Recovery Will Take Both Time and Action

According to a recent poll of readers of the Real Estate journal First Tuesday, the most optimistic recovery date from the current recession is late 2020, with 30% of respondents hopeful for a quick rebound. A quarter of respondents believe that recovery will be tied to a COVID-19 vaccine, which is predicted to arrive no earlier than mid-2021. 45% don’t expect recovery until 2022.

Benjamin Smith of First Tuesday agrees that a COVID-19 vaccine is important to recovery, but warns that there are other aspects at play. Real Estate as a business does depend heavily on in-person interactions, even though much of the work can certainly be done online or via email, and lockdowns have, without a doubt, slowed down business. Smith is careful to note, however, that the market was already on a downturn before COVID-19 hit, merely speeding up and exacerbating an impending recession. Two important factors in the downturn were falling inventory and insufficient construction.

While a vaccine can help open up agents, buyers, and sellers to safely meet up and discuss business, the underlying causes still need to be addressed, and people will need time and government intervention to recover their finances. This places recovery almost certainly later than mid-2021, and very likely further out. Fortunately, low interest rates mean buyer purchasing power will be relatively high once they regain their financial stability, meaning home prices aren’t likely to suffer as long as interest rates remain low.

Photo by Jens Behrmann on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/the-votes-are-in-housing-market-slated-for-a-late-recovery/71917/

Recession Chatter

The New York Federal Reserve Bank shows a probability of 33% for a recession to strike in the next 12 months.

A recent Zillow survey of economists and other experts predicts a 52% chance of recession by the end of 2019 and a 73% chance of recession by the end of 2020.

Morgan Stanley economist Chetan Ahya estimates that the trade war with China and threatened increased tariffs, “could wind up in a global recession in about three quarters.”

Sounds very ominous. Of course, the fact it does sound ominous reinforces our tendency to talk about it. Then repeatedly hearing the conversation inflates the concern in our minds. Per Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat, the single biggest threat to the U.S. economy is, “Our ability to talk ourselves into the next recession.” (A Reuters article in April discussed ways in which those in the investment industry avoid using the ‘R word’ to minimize concerns on the part of investors.)

So what prompted this forecast of recession?

One of the key indicators used by many is the ‘inverted yield spread,’ also known as an “inverted yield curve.” Campbell Harvey, a Duke University finance professor first linked yield curve inversions to recessions in the mid-1980s. An inversion lasting three months has preceded the last seven recessions, per Harvey. “From the 1960s, this indicator has been reliable in terms of foretelling a recession, and also importantly, it has not given any false signals yet,” he said.

Without going into a lot of detail, a simple way to think of the inverted yield is this: Typically, a short term loan carries a lower interest rate than a long term loan. It’s logical, in that we are much better at forecasting events over a short term like three months, than we are over a long term, like 10 years. And that is exactly what changed late in March of 2019. It became cheaper to borrow for ten years, than for three months. It was the first time since mid-2007 that the yield curve had flipped.

Whether now or later, it is inevitable that a recession will come. That’s the way our economic system works. And preparing for the inevitable is simply wise. We recommend you evaluate your financial position in light of the possibilities and plan to protect your assets. If we can help with real estate information and valuation, don’t hesitate to call.