In spite of a tough job market, rising consumer goods prices, challenging mortgage loan underwriting guidelines, and numerous trillion dollar bailouts, home prices have been improving quite well across the nation.
What happens if and when mortgage loan underwriting guidelines ease up and become much more flexible for borrowers? What happens when more private, non-governmental entities begin to originate loans and/or purchase them in the secondary markets?
Let’s take a look….
Skyrocketing Prices & Affordability Indexes
I’m a bit confused. In today’s “Credit Crisis World” (www.thecreditcrisis.net), consumer goods prices are skyrocketing and coupled with the “bust” and “boom” of both stock and real estate values.
Is the U.S. Dollar getting weaker, or is demand for consumer goods and assets (like stocks and real estate) increasing dramatically?
Why does gasoline continue to hover in the $4 to $5 per gallon price range when Americans are seemingly driving less each year due to the combination of increasing commuting and travel costs coupled with a stagnant job market?
As I have written before, a weakening U.S. Dollar is potentially the primary reason for the increase in oil and gasoline costs, since oil is traded by way of the “Petrodollar” system (or “oil for Dollars”).
The value of the U.S. Dollar and the price of oil are akin to a figurative “see saw” in that these values and prices tend to be inverse to one another. A weaker Dollar leads to higher oil prices, and a stronger Dollar leads to lower oil prices, historically.
$19 Movie Theater Tickets and $5 Popcorn
I was shocked and appalled recently to find a Southern California movie theater in a large retail shopping center that offered $19 movie theater tickets for shows, even during the earlier daytime hours.
The cost of popcorn was somewhere in the $5+ range for a standard size of potentially stale and greasy popcorn.
How does a family of four or more afford to go out to the movies anymore? What happened to the old 75 cent movie theater ticket prices that I still remember when I was a young lad?
Am I the only one who has paid attention to how everyday prices have skyrocketed as it relates to items such as grocery store items, restaurants, entertainment complexes or theme parks ($90+ per person per day now for some of the more famous theme parks), bowling alleys, clothing stores, and book stores?
Back in the early 1990’s, $30 might have almost filled up a grocery cart at the local supermarket. Today, $30 will probably buy us a few items.
Skyrocketing Prices: A Comparison
Which category has increased the most in price gains in recent years – Stocks, Real Estate, or Consumer Goods (i.e., gasoline, food, entertainment costs, etc.)?
I believe that the answers are the Dow Jones composite stocks prices (#1), and consumers goods (#2). If true, then real estate (#3) is still lagging well behind both.
For example, the average price per gallon of gasoline in January 2005 was $1.78 per gallon. When compared with recent $5 per gallon prices in many parts of California in recent times, gasoline prices have jumped 281%+ between 2005 and 2013.
If I divide 281% by eight (8) years (2005 to 2013), I arrive at 35%+ price inflation per year.
Dow Jones Composite Index
As it relates to Dow Jones composite index, stocks and the near financial implosion of the world’s entire financial system as even stated by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the lowest Dow Jones closing in recent years occurred on March 9th, 2009 when the Dow Jones closed at 6547.05. Just four (4) years later, the Dow Jones rapidly increased to 15,000+ in spite of a stagnant and weak U.S. economy and job market.
If I divide 15,000 by 6,527, I will arrive at an approximate 229% price increase for the Dow Jones. After dividing 229% by four (4) years (2009 to 2013), I arrive at 57.25% price inflation per year.
Real Estate Lags Far Behind in Price Appreciation Percentages
Since the last major housing peak near 2006 or 2007 (depending upon the U.S. region), median prices have fallen anywhere from 25% to 50%+ from their market peaks within the period of just a few years.
Thankfully, we have seen more positive news in regard to home price gains both regionally and nationally in recent years with 10%+ price gains over the past year alone.
Yet, how many home market regions have reached price levels back near their respective market peaks in 2006, 2007, or 2008? ANSWER: Very few.
If my home dropped 35% to 50% + in value from the market peaks near 2007, then I will need more than 6% to 10% appreciation gains per year for several years in order to even reach back near the once peak property values.
As analyzed over just the past five or six years alone, the vast majority of home prices nationally are still near ZERO PERCENT in terms of annual appreciated home price gains. If these numbers are true for many Americans, then does it seem logical that many home regions potentially can appreciate significantly in future years in order to partly offset the significant price declines?
What if 10%+ annual home price gains become more of the norm in future years as opposed to the more historical 3% annual home price gains?
Are Homes More Affordable Than Stocks and Movie Theater Tickets?
With the government and the Federal Reserve’s policies of flooding the financial markets with “easy money” by way of various bailouts and near record low interest rates, these seemingly infinite Quantitative Easing strategies (or “create money out of thin air in order to buy up more stocks, bonds, and real estate in order to allegedly drive these asset prices skyward”) should cause real estate prices to increase exponentially in both the near and long term.
As homeowners are more likely to “walk away” from upside down homes (where their mortgage debt exceeds their current property value), then improving equity positions for homeowners also helps banks or mortgage loan servicing companies, which back these same properties.
The bulk of many Americans’ net financial worth is derived from their real estate holdings much more so than any other asset class. Increased home equity gains lead, in turn, to happier Americans who are more likely to increase their consumer spending numbers as well.
According to data released by the Fiserv Case-Schiller index recently, the monthly payment on a conventional home mortgage for a median priced U.S. home now represents just 12% of median family income. This same “12% of median family income payment percentages” is the lowest figure since as far back as 1971, when these numbers were first tracked.
On a comparative basis, real estate seems much more “affordable” than a $19 movie theater ticket or a $100 tank of gas.
What Happens If Mortgage Loan Qualifying Eases Up?
To answer the question from the beginning of this article, if mortgage loan underwriting guidelines ease up and more private, non-governmental entities begin to originate loans, home prices may then rapidly increase. This certainly benefits more Americans as opposed to 35% per year gasoline price increases.
Historically, the best hedge against inflation is real estate. The combination of near record-low mortgage rates, pent-up buyer demand, and inflation can lead to solid real estate gains in both the near and long term. The increased equity gains in real estate should hopefully partly offset the insanely high $100+ fill ups at the gas pump or those $40 to $100 nights at the local movie theater. Your comments are welcome.