'Although few experts predict that home values will fall dramatically in 2007, many economists say that prices won't improve for 12 to 18 months. And without the cushion of rising home equity -- which softened the blow of high oil prices last year and kept consumers buying big-ticket items at a rapid clip -- Americans may lose confidence in their finances, and the broader economy is likely to suffer.
Ambitious building booms in many markets in the past half-decade, combined with mortgage interest rates that have increased about 1 percent in the past year, have resulted in residential real estate stagnation. The gridlock defies conventional wisdom, stubbornly remaining neither a buyer's nor a seller's market.
"We are currently experiencing the worst of the market freeze, which is being exacerbated by the gap between the buyer's desire for bargains and the seller's fantasy of what they once thought their homes would be worth," said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Chicago-based Mesirow Financial, who forecasts a rebound in early 2008. "The good news is that there are some signs of stabilization. The bad news is that a substantial backlog of unsold homes still exists."'
Moody's Economy.com makes an important observation - is this a portentous statistic?
'Global forces and U.S. monetary policies play important roles in the housing slowdown, which already appears to be depressing the national economy.
The newest forecast by Moody's Economy.com, a private research firm, projected that the median sales price for an existing home will decline in 2007 by 3.6 percent -- the first decline for an entire year in U.S. home prices since the Great Depression of the 1930s.'
Again, how did we end up in this mess? Quick answer: It's the interest rates, stupid!
'Peter Morici, business professor at the University of Maryland, said artificially low interest rates over the past half-decade encouraged China and other exporting nations to purchase 10-year bonds, which kept U.S. mortgage rates low and fueled the housing bubble -- despite a gaping trade deficit that should have sapped investor confidence years ago.
"In order to play this ponzi scheme, the value of the homes had to go up faster than the economy grew and faster than people could service their debt. We've reached that limit," Morci said. "The housing market sustained the economy at a time of very large trade deficits. It's been a false prosperity."'
And what do the forecasters say about our fine state?
'Florida will likely remain the toughest market for buyers and sellers.
Building frenzies in Miami, Orlando and the Caribbean coast resulted in a plethora of for-sale signs. Developers desperate to unload inventory offer free granite countertops, appliances and furniture -- even cars, vacations and mortgage payments for up to six months.
Meanwhile, insurance companies dramatically raised premiums after Hurricane Katrina. Depending on where they live and their policies, Florida home owners may pay as much as 10 times more for flood and wind insurance than last year; premiums can exceed $30,000 per year on mansions. That's caused monthly costs to skyrocket, pinching current owners and making it all but impossible for renters to buy.
Throughout Florida, 12,773 existing single-family homes were sold in October, down 22 percent from a year ago, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. Florida's median price was unchanged at $242,500, but more than half of the urban areas posted declines. Around Fort Myers, the median price plunged 44 percent to $249,200 from October 2005.'
And let us end with some serious b.s. from a man who obviously owns real estate that he can't unload. His data that he quotes is from pre-2005, and his statements are nothing but air-filled cheerleading. We will keep his statements here for posterity.
'Not everyone is pessimistic -- even in beleaguered Florida.
Long-term demographic shifts from the Midwest and New England bode well for the notoriously boom-and-bust state, said Dave Denslow, professor of economics at the University of Florida. Florida, which gained 430,000 new residents in the past year, is a popular destination for Latin American immigrants and retirees from northern states, Canada and western Europe.
"People start thinking about buying a retirement home in their late 50s, and baby boomers are approaching that age," Denslow said. "The demand for residential housing here is only going to get stronger through 2020."'
What a load of crap.