2010 SALT LAKE HOUSING OUTLOOK
By Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, NAR Research
Let’s first turn to the terrific news regarding the housing stimulus. Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed and the President signed into law new measures to maintain the momentum for a housing market recovery. The home buyer tax credit, originally scheduled to expire at the end of November will now be available through the middle of next year and more potential buyers will be able to take advantage of it. The income limit was also increased and many move-up buyers – not just first-timer purchasers – also will qualify. Furthermore, loan limits will not shrink as was planned for next year; in high-cost areas, the loan limit will remain at near $730,000 in 2010, thereby permitting more consumers to tap into the historically low mortgage rates. As most of us are aware, the housing market recovery to date has been concentrated in the lower-end starter home segment. While the mid-priced market has begun to show signs of life, it is still far below normal activity. The upper-end remains sluggish. Therefore, enlarging the tax credit to include move-up buyers will add the necessary ‘juice’ to broaden the recovery. The accompanying increased velocity in home sales will mean more economic activity. Also, even though there may be less impact in the overall net inventory (a person sells before buying so it looks as a ‘wash’ on inventory), the months’ supply will fall because of rising sales. Increased sales have the added benefit of making HVCC and appraisal issues less problematic since more comparables will be available.
Adding it all up, home sales are now expected to get a boost by roughly 15 percent next year. Existing-home sales are forecast to post 5.7 million units in 2010 (up from 5 million units in 2009). New home sales will also rise, reaching 550,000 (from 400,000). More importantly, inventory will likely fall to a 6-7 months’ supply by the middle of next year. That draw down of inventory means that that there are likely to be modest home price gains. Roughly speaking a 2-5 percent price gain is likely in many parts of the country in the next year.
Rising home values will prevent home prices from overcorrecting even further. Home prices have, indeed, been overcorrecting and have led to sizable destruction in middle-class housing-related wealth. By contrast, stock market and financial wealth have experienced spectacular gains in the past nine months. Despite those gains, however, consumer confidence still continues to tread near historic lows. Why is there a disconnect between the rising stock market and low consumer confidence? Most middle-class families have the majority of their wealth tied to housing and less to the stock market. So as long as home values fall, then consumer confidence and the broader economy will face challenges. Therefore, housing-focused stimulus measures will help households build up their housing-wealth (again) and lay the foundation for a sustainable economic recovery. As always, there are some caveats. The 30-year fixed rate is likely to reach 5.7 percent by the end of 2010 from the current 5.0 percent.
Despite the risks of rising mortgage rates and rising unemployment, the housing outlook has significantly improved. As the fear of falling home values disappears, that one key negative factor that has held back home sales will no longer be in play. Happier days are ahead.