Trulia quoted me in Warning Signs: Another Housing Bubble Is Coming. It opens,
Signs show another bubble coming. Some experts have a different opinion.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, it caused what came to be known as ”The Great Recession.” When the bubble burst, it ”sent a shock through the entire financial system, increasing the perceived credit risk throughout the economy,” according to a report published in The Journal of Business Inquiry.
The crash caused homes to lose up to half their value. People became underwater, owing more than their home was worth. And who wants to pay on a mortgage that’s larger than what the home could sell for? Although some people did just that, many more opted to short sell their homes or to simply walk away and have the bank foreclose.
Fast-forward to 2016, and we are seeing hot, even ” overheated,” housing markets; bidding wars; rising home prices; and house flippers – all the signs of a housing bubble that’s about to burst. Are we repeating the mistakes we made before? Yes and no. Let’s explore four reasons the housing bubble burst and whether we’re experiencing the same conditions today.
1. Easy Credit
Before the 2008 crash, credit was easy to get. Pretty much, if you were breathing, you could get a mortgage loan. This led to people getting mortgages who ultimately couldn’t afford to pay them back. They lost their homes, and this contributed in large part to the housing crisis. Today the situation is different. ”Credit is still much tighter than it was before the financial crisis,” says David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. ”This is particularly true for those with less-than-perfect credit scores.” He explains: ”There are almost no no-down-payment loans as there were in the early 2000s. Those defaulted at incredibly high rates.”
But what about Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans? They feature ”low down payments, low closing costs, and easy credit qualifying.” Those are the very features that should sound some warning bells. But before you get too alarmed, keep in mind that the FHA has been making loans to people who do not qualify for a conventional mortgage since 1934. ”While there are low-down-payment loans available from Fannie, Freddie, and the FHA, their underwriting standards appear to be higher than those for low-down-payment products from the early 2000s,” says Reiss.
2. Low Interest Rates
Mortgage rates have been low for so long that you might not realize that was not always the case. In 1982, for example, mortgage rates were 18 percent. From 2002 to 2005, the rates stayed at about 6 percent, which enticed people to take out mortgage loans. And in 2016, we’re seeing historic lows of under 3.5 percent. If rates go up, we might see housing demand and housing prices fall.
Before the housing crash when home prices were rising fast, many people were priced out of the market with a fixed-rate mortgage because they couldn’t afford the monthly mortgage payments. But they could afford lower payments that were possible with an adjustable-rate mortgage – until that rate adjusted up. In 2005, 38.5 percent of the mortgage market was ARMs. But in 2015, that amount has dropped considerably to 5.3 percent.
4. A Buying Frenzy
There’s an old story that before the stock market crash of 1929, Joseph Kennedy, Sr., sold his shares. Why? Because he received a stock tip from a shoeshine boy. Kennedy figured, the story goes, that if the stock market was popular enough for a shoeshine boy to be interested, the speculative bubble had become too big.
Before the housing crash, this country saw a home buying frenzy similar to what happened before the stock market crash. Everyone from lenders to rating agencies to investors (foreign and American) to investment bankers to home buyers was eager to get into the mortgage game because house values kept rising. Today, we are seeing a similar buying frenzy in some markets, such as San Francisco, New York, and Miami . Some experts think that the price increases of homes in those areas are not sustainable. They say that because heavy foreign investment in those areas is part of what’s driving up prices, if those investments slow or stop, we could see a bubble burst.
So what do some experts think?
David Ranish, owner/broker for The Coastline Real Estate Group in Laguna Beach, CA, says: ”There are concerns about another housing bubble, but I do not see it. The market could stabilize, but a complete collapse is highly unlikely.”
Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta, GA, real estate expert, says,” ”Five to six years ago, I was a buyer of homes. Today I am a seller.”
David Reiss says, ”It is probably a fool’s game to predict the future of the housing market or whether we are in a bubble that is soon to burst.”