After publicly doubting recovery all through the summer and early fall, the housing bears are definitely getting their moment, after two key numbers (mortgages and starts) came in particularly weak yesterday.
Today the WSJ adds some further evidence that the much-feared “double dip” is happening.
On Wednesday Pulte Homes Inc., the nation’s largest home builder, warned investors of a grim outlook. “As we look out to 2010, we are expecting difficult conditions to continue,” said chief executive Richard Dugas.
Meanwhile, more Americans who bought homes during the boom are falling into mortgage limbo. About 3.4% of U.S. households — or about 1.9 million homeowners — are 120 days or more overdue on their payments, but not yet in foreclosure, according to LPS Applied Analytics, a research firm in Denver. That is up from 1.5% a year earlier.
Many of these people are likely to lose their homes over the next few years. That means more bank-owned homes will hit a market already suffering from oversupply.
The housing-supply picture is tricky to read. The number of homes listed for sale was 3.63 million in September, down 15% from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is enough to last about eight months at the current rate of sales. Anything above about six months is considered a buyer’s market, in which prices may come under downward pressure.
After yesterday’s bad mortgage number, there was some talk to the effect of “Well, maybe this was a temporary lull, in light of the fact that people weren’t 100% sure the tax credit would be extended.” This may make a little sense, except that what it means is that without the tax credit, the market is TERRIBLE. So that’s hardly a “bull” case.
(Picture via Flickr user goosmurf)