Moody’s on Home Builders: No Green Shoots Here

Increases in sales figures and affordability for existing homes tend to mask more unstable conditions of US home builders, according to the first report in a series on economic recovery by Moody’s Investors Services. While mortgage rates held recently at record levels, Moody’s notes underwriting requirements sidelined many potential home buyers. And although consumer confidence began to recover earlier in the year, it remains at fall ’08 levels. “The ‘recovery’ is still quite precarious, with progress to date and further progress hindered by rising unemployment and the massive level of actual and expected foreclosures flooding the market,” Moody’s report said. “Hence, our conclusion is that while the U.S. economy and homebuilding industry may have inched away from being green around the gills, they are a far cry from sprouting green shoots.” In light of these market conditions, Moody’s projects the number of finished homes delivered to buyers will fall 30% to 50% in ’09, the fourth consecutive year of declining new home completions. Not surprisingly, the report ties housing recovery with the nation’s overall economic stability. It calls for more governmental intervention to boost effective foreclosure mitigation efforts. “For foreclosures to abate and house prices to stabilize anytime soon, policy efforts to mitigate foreclosures through loan modifications must soon begin to work more effectively,” the report said. “To date, the Obama administration’s foreclosure mitigation plan has not had a meaningful impact.” Write to Austin Kilgore.

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