Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cash Will Be King

Well, here is an article in SF Gate that no one who reads this and other similar blogs should be surprised to read. It's nice to be seeing more and more of these sorts of articles in the mainstream media; late, but nice.

My eye caught on the statistic that in 2005 50% of buyers used interest-only ARMs. Sheesh! (I updated this post accordingly).

Some choice quotes:
"I don't want to be a Chicken Little," he says, "but it's gonna be bad for housing. It's a real threat to everything."

A financial consultant and former visiting scholar at UCLA's prestigious Anderson School, Talbott views the housing market as a house of cards on the verge of collapse. He predicts rising interest rates and plummeting property values, followed by widespread foreclosures that will not only affect the real estate industry, but almost every aspect of the economy.

"It's already started," says Talbott. "We've had 20 years of up, up, up with real estate. This spring will be brutal."

Talbott regards the latest data on the Bay Area housing market as mounting evidence for his prediction: rising interest rates, decreasing appreciation, 10 straight months of declining sales and, in January, the lowest number of sales in five years.

The problem, he says, is that home prices are way overvalued -- just as Internet stocks were during the 1990s before that sky collapsed. As evidence, he points to the growing discrepancy between Bay Area home prices and rents, an indicator commonly used by economists to determine a property's true value.

"It paints a very scary picture," Talbott says. "Something has economic value because it has cash flow. If you discount for general inflation and go back 120 years in history, you'll discover that, in real terms, housing prices were relatively flat until 1997 -- then (they) shot up about 70 percent."

Banks are lending more, he says, because they are sticking to their old qualifying formula of computing the ratio of the loan applicant's salary to the mortgage payment. They're doing this, he said, without adjusting for inflation.

"So the banks are using the same stupid formula. They convince these young couples to borrow a million-dollar note that they're never gonna get out from under."

To make matters worse, Talbott says, an increasing number of borrowers are taking out variable-rate and interest-only loans. According to San Francisco's LoanPerformance.com, half of all Bay Area home buyers used interest-only loans to make their purchases last year. With so much of their income already relegated to their mortgage payment, says Talbott, even a small rise in interest rates will push many to -- and beyond -- their limit. For others, a divorce or job loss will spell financial ruin.

Because of the above factors, Talbott predicts a wave of loan defaults and foreclosures. Bank presidents will be fired for making so many risky loans. The new presidents, wanting to clean up the mess, will unload the properties at a loss, perhaps for 40 to 60 cents on the dollar. This will flood the market and deflate home prices further.

And then, according to Talbott's prediction, the financial impact will, like an especially vicious virus, spread. First, the real estate industry will falter. Then, industries tied to real estate -- including banking, construction, home supply stores -- will be hurt.

People should protect themselves, Talbott says, by divesting themselves of any investments in real estate, including stock. They should sell their vacation homes. They should get out of any variable-rate or interest-only loans. They might even consider selling their primary residence, investing that money in something other than real estate, and renting for awhile.

"And after this mess," he says, "cash will be king."

1 Comments:

Blogger fredtobik said...

already starting.

NEW YORK - Making the minimum payment on your credit card bill might not be as easy as it used to be — and two of the nation's largest banks say their own finances might suffer as a result.

http://tinyurl.com/j5673

So if I am trying to time a market shift, and assume that Americans will get smarter with their money, what industry will profit? I am thinking banking, as people will start to invest their new found savings?

Mar 12, 2006, 1:35:00 PM  

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