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ABS Vegas: No housing bubble to see here

Move along, say speakers at securitization gathering

Housing bubble
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Dispatches from ABS Vegas 2014, being put on by The Structured Finance Industry Group and Information Management Network:

The session headline is "Macro Economic Overview of the Global Economy and Outlook for 2014," and we can’t resist.

Moderator Vishwanath Tirupattur, managing director at Morgan Stanley, led the panel in a discussion of key housing and other economic indicators, the effects of the Federal Reserve’s tapering, the affect of rising interest rates, and the impact of the bipartisan budget deal.

Panelists are Alex Villacorta, vice president, research and analytics, Clear Capital; Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic; Laurie Goodman, center director for the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute; Oliver Chang, cofounder and managing director for Sylvan Road Capital; Frank Serravalli, lead partner, PWC; and Amy Crews Cutts, senior vice president and chief economist at Equifax.

First up: Is there a bubble in U.S. housing?

"There is a bubble in the use of the word bubble," said Vishwanath Tirupattur, managing director at Morgan Stanley.

Attendees were more cynical as were some non-voting attendees.

A poll of attendees had 2 of 3 saying they think there are small regional bubbles forming. Not a national bubble, but bubbles in specific markets.

"Where we are is very reminiscent of 2006. But those rates were coming off extremely low basis," Villacorta said. "The big gains gave been in markets where the was a low basis. I think prices are where they should be."

"The markets that are skyrocketing like Vegas and Phoenix are coming off a very low base. But this is economic sleight of hand because the prior peak should never have been there," Fleming said. "We looked at incomes and home prices, and what we found was that we were 10-12% overinflated at the peak of the bubble. The crash took us to 20% under, and now we are at 2% under, which is within the margin of error. If we see growth of another 10-12% in 2014, and I don’t think we will, then we can be worried about a bubble."

"This time around we don’t have the speculative aspect fueled by easy money; it’s not there," Cutts said. "Homebuilders are building where there is demand. Homes are different than what we saw before. All come back to a more sensible aspect."

Goodman said she didn’t see any signs of a housing bubble.

All of these assessments are in line with analyst calls made on the HousingWire website over the past several months. Subscribers to our monthly magazine edition also learned three weeks ago that while bubble fears are back, they may be overblown in many cases.

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