In about two weeks, hedge funds, mortgage lenders, and other investors will be able to bet on the future of the U.S. housing market without buying a home.
a housing data provider, is introducing a tradeable futures contract based on its national composite index that compiles data on home prices in 25 U.S. metropolitan areas. The contracts are slated to be available through the CBOE Futures Exchange
after receiving regulatory approval, which is anticipated within the next two weeks.
The product could help bring stability to the housing market and ultimately lower costs for borrowers, said Quinn Eddin, director of research for RadarLogic.
"Right off the bat it's going to be a good indication of where institutional investors see housing prices going," he said in an interview. "In the long run I think it could make housing more affordable by reducing a lot of the risk that lenders are exposed to when they make mortgage loans."
Lenders would then pass that benefit along to borrowers in the form of lower rates, he added.
This will be RadarLogic's second attempt at creating a market in housing futures. The firm launched a similar product in September 2007, but those futures were traded over the counter, or between private investors rather than on an exchange.
Contracts with a notional value of about $4 billion were traded in the 18-month period between the time the products were introduced and when the market shut down due to the housing crash, said Eddin.
This time around, customers with mortgage and mortgage-backed securities risk approached Radar Logic to express interest in a similar product that would be traded on an exchange.
Especially with new Dodd-Frank regulations in place, "it's important now in the post-crisis environment to be transparent and liquid, and exchanges provide that," Eddin said.
The RPX contracts, which will settle two times a year, in the spring and fall, will be based on specific RadarLogic 28-day real estate indexes that convert data from public sources into a per-square-foot value for home prices.
RadarLogic plans within a year to launch regional indexes for home price futures, and eventually, indexes for individual metropolitan areas, as demand warrants.
Write to Liz Enochs