The high-end market, in particular, is under tremendous pressure. In fact, it is becoming non-existent. Guess how many homes prices above $750k managed to sell in July. Answer — zero, nada, rien; and for the second month in a row. Only 1,000 units priced above 500,000 moved last month. That’s it! Over 80% of the homes that the builders managed to sell were priced for under $300,000. Just another sign of how this remains a full-fledged buyers’ market — at least for the ones that can either afford to put down a downpayment or are creditworthy enough to secure a mortgage loan (keeping in mind that 25% of the household sector does have a sub-600 FICO score).
Remember that this is a July data point and we know that the NAHB housing market index, which has an historic 83% correlation with new home sales, dipped for the third month in a row in August, to 13 from 14 in July. So it’s not even safe to say that we have hit rock bottom. Moreover, when you look at the trendline in total home sales, it is plain to see what has happened from the impact of the now-expired housing tax credits — the subsidy did little more than distort the pattern of housing demand and actually pulled forward well in excess of a million units of consumption, at the expense of future growth. What does this mean? That demand will remain anemic and likely hit even new lower lows in coming months and quarters as we enter into the “payback time” phase.
This is going to sound like a broken record but it took a decade of parabolic credit growth to get the U.S. economy into this deleveraging mess and there is clearly no painless “quick fix” towards bringing household debt into historical realignment with the level of assets and income to support the prevailing level of liabilities. We are talking about $6 trillion of excess debt that has to be extinguished, either by paying it down or by walking away from it (or having it socialized).
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