Thursday, July 31, 2008

Secretary Paulson on The State of the Housing Market

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spoke today on the Markets and Economy at the Exchequer Club, in Washington D.C. As part of his remarks, he provided an overview of the current state of the housing market (our emphasis.)

It took years of excesses – lax underwriting standards, excessive home price appreciation and overbuilding – to sow the seeds of the housing correction.

That said, we need to recognize that there is not a national housing market, but a collection of regional markets. The severity of the current correction varies widely by state and region. Areas that had some of the most pronounced price appreciation are facing the most pronounced price declines and foreclosure increases. Of course, that does not mean the correction isn't being felt across the nation. Foreclosure starts as a share of total outstanding mortgages have risen from 0.4 percent to 1.0 percent since the beginning of 2006. However, OFHEO's home price data shows that home prices actually rose in about half of the states in the first quarter.

Due to overbuilding in prior years, home inventories are now far above normal levels. At the current sales rate, there is a ten month inventory of new single-family homes on the market, and an 11 month inventory of existing single-family homes. This compares with a historical average of about six to seven months. The key to stabilizing the housing and financial markets is to work through these home inventories as quickly as possible.

Inventories decrease in two ways – fewer homes are built, and more buyers come into the market. We are seeing the necessary sharp decline in homebuilding. Single-family housing starts are down 65 percent from their 2006 peak and look to remain weak through this year.

New home sales appear to have stabilized to a degree – sales of new single-family homes are down 62 percent from their peak; and sales have been flat, rather than declining, for three months now. The drastic slowing in new construction has helped reduce the number of new single-family homes on the market, which is down 26 percent since its 2006 peak. The number of existing homes on the market remains elevated, but there are also tentative signs that sales in this category have been stabilizing since early 2008.

We all recognize that foreclosure sales increase inventories and, as foreclosed homes are put on the market, they drive down prices. Foreclosures and short sales now make up about one-third of existing home sales....

Foreclosures and existing home inventories are likely to remain substantially elevated this year and next and home prices are likely to decline further on a national basis. The key question is, "When will the correction be largely behind us?" While home price adjustments will continue for some time, and certainly well beyond the end of the year, I believe we can move through the bulk of the correction in months rather than years.

No comments:

Post a Comment