They’re not even trying to blame the weather this time. “Housing affordability is really taking a bite out of the market,” is how the chief economist for the California Association of Realtors explained the March home sales fiasco. “We haven’t seen this issue since 2007.”
Giant PE firms and REITs have become the largest landlords in the country over the last two years because “there was a moment in time where it made sense,” but now home prices are too high, the business model has collapsed, and buyers evaporate.
It starts here: evictions in San Francisco hit the highest level since 2001, when the dotcom bubble was disintegrating. Everything these days gets benchmarked against the last bubbles: the dotcom bubble that blew up in 2000, the housing bubble that blew up in 2007.
The stock market has soared for five years, risks have ballooned, home prices have jumped. Gains built on the quicksand of endless liquidity and a lackluster economy. “Irrational exuberance” is back in the Fed’s vocabulary. As the Fed’s Fisher said, it may end “in tears.”
National averages paper over gritty details on the ground and are a crummy indicator as to what is happening in specific metro areas. But even with this caveat, a national average suddenly sounded an alarm for the housing market: the smart money is bailing out.
Teachers are a symbol of the middle class. In California, they earn on average $69,300 annually, fifth highest in the country. Not exactly a pittance. But it is a ludicrous pittance if they’re trying to buy a home.
First-time buyers, a powerful economic energy, create real demand and make the housing market grow. We’ve been praying for their arrival like we’ve been praying for rain in parched California. But the more we pray, the fewer there are.
OK, I get it. Life-threatening cold temperatures, polar vortices, and snow mayhem can put a damper on home construction, mortgage applications, first-time buyers, and home-builder confidence. But they also plunged on the West Coast where the weather was gorgeous.
The cynic in me says the dizzying jump in foreclosure starts in January in much of the country, after years of sharp and consistent declines, must be some kind of data problem. Maybe RealtyTrac’s computers got hacked, or something. But that’s wishful thinking.
It’s back, a new and improved contraption, a synthetic structured security that on its polished surface looks like that triple-A rated mortgage-backed toxic waste that helped blow up the banks and your 401(k) in 2008. But this time, it’s different. It’s even worse.