Friday, 6 April 2012
U.S. Housing - Excerpt from JPMorgan Annual Letter
The following is a great summary of the current U.S. housing situation from the 2011 JPMorgan shareholders letter. A must read:
There has been a tremendous focus on the fact that housing prices remain depressed and, in fact, are still going down some. The large “shadow inventory” of homes in delinquency or foreclosure that has not yet hit the sale market adds to the fears that this will continue for a long time. New home construction still is very depressed – so, to most, the future looks bleak. However, if one looks at the leading indicators, all signs are flashing green – the turn is coming if it is not here already. We don’t want to be blindly optimistic, but the facts are the facts:
• America has never stopped growing. The United States has added 3 million people a year since the crisis began four years ago. We will add 30 million people in the next
• This population growth normally would create a need for 1.2 million additional housing units each year. Household formation has been half of that for the past four years. Our economists believe that there is huge pent-up demand and that household formation will return to 1.2 million a year
as job conditions improve.
• Job conditions have been improving, albeit slowly. In the last 24 months, 3.45 million jobs have been created.
• On average, only 845,000 new U.S. housing units were built annually over the last four years – and the destruction of homes from demolition, disaster and dilapidation has averaged 250,000 a year. The growth of new households, even at a reduced rate, has been able to absorb all of this new supply,
• The total inventory of single-family homes and condos for sale currently is 2.7 million units, down from a peak of 4.4 million units in May 2007. It now would take only six months to sell all of the houses for sale at existing sales rates, down from 12 months two years ago. (This low of an inventory number normally would be considered a positive sign for future housing prices.)
• While the shadow inventory mentioned above still is significant, it has shown a visible declining trend since peaking at the end of 2009, when the number of loans delinquent 90+ days or in foreclosure was 5.1 million homes. It now totals 3.9 million, and we estimate it could be 3 million in 12 months. The shadow inventory also may move more quickly as mortgage servicers get better at packaged sales and short sales and as real money investors start to buy foreclosed homes and rent them out for a good profit. Home prices still are going down a little bit, and they will stay depressed for a while. Distressed sales (short sales, foreclosure sales, real estate-owned sales) still are 25% of all sales, and these sales typically are priced 30% lower than non-distressed sales. As the percentage of distressed sales comes down over the next 12-24 months, their negative effect on housing prices will start to diminish.
• Housing is at an all-time high level of affordability due to both low home prices and low mortgage rates.
• It now is cheaper to buy than to rent inhalf of the markets in America – this has not been true for more than 15 years. Relatively high rental prices can be a precursor to increasing home prices.
• At the same time, American consumers are finding more solid financial footing relative to their debt. The household debt service ratio, which is the ratio of mortgage plus consumer debt payments to disposable personal income, stands at its lowest level since 1994. This is a result of rapid consumer deleveraging – household mortgage debt now is down $1 trillion from its 2008 peak. (Reported U.S. mortgage data do not remove mortgage debt from an individual’s debt obligations until there is an actual foreclosure. It is estimated that $600 billion of the $9 trillion in currently outstanding mortgage debt is not paying interest today and effectively could be removed now from these numbers.)
• Recent senior loan officer surveys by theFederal Reserve show that, while there are not yet clear signs of credit loosening for new mortgages, at least the rush to tighten
mortgage lending standards has abated.
• Over the last two years, $2 trillion of mortgages have been refinanced, substantially aiding homeowner burdens. We expect another $2 trillion to refinance over the next two years, with approximately 10% coming from recently announced government programs, and, at that point, we estimate that only 15%-20% of Americans will be paying interest rates over 6%.
More jobs, more households, more Americans, good value – it’s just a matter of time.