Things are as murky as ever with respect to the U.S. economy and its struggling housing sector.
In her recent, prescient article on HousingWire, “Consumers don’t think it’s the right time to buy,” Brena Swanson quoted the July Housing Survey from Fannie Mae as indicating that consumer attitudes toward the home-buying environment stumbled a bit last month despite positive home-price change expectations.
It seems the share of consumers who believe that “now is a good time to buy,” as spun by NAR, CAR, the MBA and other sources that surely have skin in the game to report strong housing performance (real or imagined), dropped 7 percentage points to 45%.
Swanson also quoted Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae as saying, “Deteriorating consumer assessments of income growth over the past year as well as increased caution around the direction of the economy and personal financial expectations may be contributing to the pullback in sentiment.”
Really? No kidding?
Also contained in the Fannie Mae survey was the fact that more consumers are saying our so-called recovering economy is on the wrong track. This opinion has risen by three percentage points to 54%.
I believe things will get much worse before they get better. And here's why I disagree with some of these vocal housing experts.
Yes, you can find markets such as Denver, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area, Manhattan and others where bidding wars are driving up home prices and consumer attitudes are at odds with the Fannie Mae survey. But these are exceptions — BIG exceptions. High tech jobs bring high-tech (meaning, high) wages. How else could you afford homes in the million-dollars and up-price ranges?
It bears repeating that for the vast majority in the middle class in America today wages have stagnated or even dropped as many who once had full-time employment of 40-plus hours per week have had their hours cut for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include ObamaCare and rising minimum wages to mention just a couple.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration the shrinking workforce who is retiring or given up looking for employment.
Other signs of murkiness include the recent report from Trey Garrison on HousingWire, “Auction.com warns on slow existing home sales.” In his piece, Garrison quotes the ever optimistic Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Auction.com, and an expert industry analyst, as saying, “While we believe that the housing market continues to recover from the most volatile boom and bust cycle we’ve ever seen, that recovery continues to be uneven, taking an occasional step backwards.”
That's put in a way only an optimist would put it.
As if to bolster my statement above, Sharga also said that one potential cause for concern at Auction.com is that as home prices continue rising, which is significantly outpacing wage growth [emphasis mine], many markets are becoming too expensive for first time buyers. Sharga adroitly said that this situation effectively causes the entire home buying engine to “seize up.” It also portends a drop in home prices.
The Federal Reserve’s recent musings about a potential rise in interest rates should also be cause for concern.
But it’s not just homebuyers and home owners who have concerns about the overall economy and the housing sector. According to a new report from Zillow Group, rental affordability has steadily worsened. The report states that Americans living in rentals spent nearly one-third of their incomes on housing in Q2 of this year, which is the highest share in recent history. Rental affordability worsened from last year in 28 of the 35 largest metro areas covered by Zillow.
Additionally, it has been widely reported that the central bank in China is now making emergency moves to prop up its currency after it attempted to move to a free float, market-based pricing of the Yuan. China reportedly was forced to let their currency float because it faces a serious, if not severe, credit crisis, which was sparked by a dramatic spike higher in interbank lending rates.
With the world’s second largest economy showing signs of real trouble, there is great concern in America and across the globe that economic woes could turn worse in short order.
This has to impact our housing sector, as well, despite what the spin-masters say.