The present real estate market is acting just as it should on the heels of the greatest real estate boom in the last 40 years. There is a long way to fall to get back to “normal”. This falling back into a normal market, coupled with the contraction of the sub-prime mortgage market has the real estate consumer, and many homeowners in a state of fear. The various media continue to depict a very grim picture of the markets in general without distinguishing between the national market and local markets, such as the Arizona real estate market, with factors unique in the ways of population growth and investor activity. I have seen numerous articles referring to the sub-prime debacle as a global crisis. That may be taking it just a bit too far.
The truth is, there is no geopolitical significance to recent events in the U.S. real estate market and the sub-prime crisis. To rise to a level of significance, an event — economic, political, or military — must result in a decisive change in the international system, or at least, a fundamental change in the behavior of a nation. The Japanese banking crisis of the early 1990s was a geopolitically significant event. Japan, the second-largest economy in the world, changed its behavior in important ways, leaving room for China to move into the niche Japan had previously owned as the world’s export dynamo. On the other hand, the dot-com meltdown was not geopolitically significant. The U.S. economy had been expanding for about nine years, a remarkably long time, and was due for a recession. Inefficiencies had become rampant in the system, nowhere more so than in the dot-com bubble. That sector was demolished and life went on.
In contrast to real estate holdings, the dot-com companies often consisted of no real property, no real chattel, and in many cases very little intellectual property. It really was a bubble. There was virtually, (pun intended), no substance to many of the companies unsuspecting investors were dumping money into as those stocks rallied and later collapsed. There was nothing left of those companies in the aftermath because there was nothing to them when they were raising money through their publicly offered stocks. So, just like when you blew bubbles as a little kid, when the bubble popped, there was absolutely nothing left. Not so with real estate, which by definition, is real property. There is no real estate bubble! Real estate ownership in the United States continues to be coveted the world over and local markets will thrive with the Arizona Real Estate market leading the way, as the country’s leader in percent population growth, through the year 2030.
As for the sub-prime “crisis”, we have to take a look at the bigger picture of the national real estate market. To begin with, remember that mortgage delinquency problems affect only people with outstanding loans, and more than one out of three homeowners own their properties debt-free. Of those who have mortgages, approximately 20% are sub-prime. 14.5% of those are delinquent. Sub-prime loans in default make up only about 2.9% of the entire mortgage market. Now, consider that only 2/3 of homeowners have a mortgage, and the total percentage of homeowners in default on their sub-prime loans stands at around 1.9%. The remaining two-thirds of all homeowners with active mortgage prime loans that are 30 days past due or more constitute just 2.6% of all loans nationwide. In other words, among mortgages made to borrowers with good credit at application, 97.4% are continuing to be paid on time.
As for the record jumps in new foreclosure filings, again, you’ve got to look closely at the hard data. In 34 states, the rate of new foreclosures actually decreased. In most other states, the increases were minor — except in the California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona real estate markets. These increases were attributable in part to investors walking away from condos, second homes, and rental houses they bought during the boom years.
Doug Duncan, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, says that without the foreclosure spikes in those states, “we would have seen a nationwide drop in the rate of foreclosure filings.” In Nevada, for instance, non-owner-occupied (investor) loans accounted for 32% of all serious delinquencies and new foreclosure actions. In Florida, the investor share of serious delinquencies was 25%; in Arizona, 26%; and in California, 21%. That compares with a rate of 13% for the rest of the country. This makes for some great buys for the savvy Arizona real estate investor in the area of short sales, foreclosures, and wholesale properties.
Bottom line: Those nasty foreclosure and delinquency rates you’re hearing about are for real. But they’re highly concentrated among loan types, local and regional economies, and investors who got their foot caught in the door at the end of the “boom” and are just walking away from those poorly performing properties. Most of those investors still have homes to live in, maybe more than one.
In the wake of the boom years, we now have a high inventory of homes on the market, Investors and speculators who quickly bought up homes dumped them just as quickly back on the market in hopes of a fast return. The frenzy of investors purchasing homes put pressure on inventories and drove prices up, further increasing investor activity. Then, as if all at once, many of those investors put their properties on the market, creating an imbalance in the reverse direction. With so many homes on the market, prices began to stall and then fell. Prices will continue to fall until demand chews up excess inventories.
With investors no longer a big part of housing demand, primary homeowners are slowly chipping away at the existing inventory. The Las Vegas housing market will rebound in March 2008, according to the largest and most respected appraisal firm locally. The main contributing factor to the sooner than later rebound of this southwestern city is a growing population and thriving local economy.
Arizona and Nevada are expected to lead the country in percentage population growth for the next 20-25 years. The population of Arizona is expected to approximately double during that time so we can expect a strong housing demand going forward. Normal inventory levels for Phoenix real estate are about 6-8 months. Current inventory is about 10-12 months. So, we are not far above “normal” inventories in Phoenix. There are, however, outlying cities in this large metropolis that have inventories in excess of 1 year. Queen Creek real estate inventory is the worst with approximately a 2-3 year surplus of homes on the market, mostly due to the large percentage of new homes purchased by investors and then quickly flipped back onto the resale market. Surprise and Peoria real estate markets have a 1-2 year inventory for largely the same reason. We are already seeing some Scottsdale real estate and Paradise Valley real estate prices increase in value. Billions of dollars are being poured into the local economy in the way of commercial development from the downtown area to Northeast Phoenix and Scottsdale.