April 01, 2012 12:41 PM
A host of housing bulls have been steady and firm in their stance that housing will recover in 2012. And while they may be the loudest and get the most airtime, they are not the parties with the real money in the game.
If you want to know the direction of housing — follow the money. The big players in housing are the banks, Freddie & Fannie, and the home builders. Our “Four Horsemen” of housing are speaking loud and clear with their actions and the direction they portend is quite different than media would lead you to believe.
It doesn’t a take fortune-teller to read the signs from these four horsemen. The message is remarkably consistent. We are moving back to a more realistic homeownership rate.
Here’s the evidence.
The banks have yet to bring all their zombie homes to the market. They are, however, in 2012, developing pilot programs to rent back foreclosed properties. Bank of America is the first large bank to start a trial program like this. The other major banks are expected to follow.
Both Freddie and Fannie have programs for 2012 to sell foreclosed properties in bulk at discounted to fire-sale prices to big cash investors, but those homes have to be rentals. Fannie, like the banks, it has been rumored, will get into the business of renting back foreclosed properties.
And lastly, our nation’s homebuilders have recently been focusing on building multifamily homes rather than single family residences – suggesting, again, that the money is in investment rental properties. Household formation is at an all time low, leading to built up demand for homes. Home builders are now betting that these new households will be renters rather than buyers.
Housing will recover in time, once the supply and demand imbalances are corrected, and all the people who can’t afford their current mortgage move into more affordable housing.
However, if 2012 is the year for the big recovery in housing then why are the four horsemen not bringing their zombie homes to the market to sell to primary resident buyers? I believe they are seeing what I have said for years now: that we simply don’t have enough qualified home buyers ( excluding cash buyers) to take on the true massive inventory in this country.
Even though all a person needs is a 620 fico, 3.5% down payment and verified income which demonstrates the capacity to buy the home, there yet remains a dearth of qualified primary resident buyers to absorb the inventory.
A primary resident housing boom is not on the horizon.