Friday, May 24, 2019

Is the Housing Market Weakening? Or Not?


I wrote back in September of last year that I thought that the housing market was showing signs of weakness. This is important because it is a large part of our overall economic outlook. But there are currently differing opinions, depending on the source.

From the American Institute of Economic Research on May 23: Housing Outlook Remains Weak
Sales of new single-family homes fell 6.9 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 673,000, down from a multiyear high of 723,000 in March.
Sales fell in three of the four regions, with only the Northeast - the smallest region by volume - posting a gain.

Total inventory of new single-family homes for sale fell 0.9 percent to 332,000 in April, pushing the month's supply to 5.9 months, up from 5.6 months in March.

Slowing sales and rising inventory are coinciding with slowing permit issuance.

Overall, despite weakness in housing, the economy continues to be supported by a tight labor market, rising incomes, solid balance sheets, and reasonably high levels of consumer confidence. The main risks on the horizon are the fallout from escalating trade wars and uncertainty about global economic conditions.
Read the entire article

From Forbes, May 23, 2019.
The U.S. housing market is healthy. The important indicators confirm it, so we can ignore the negative reports that use existing home sales data.

What about a recession? Could one negatively affect the housing market? Of course, because it would adversely affect employment, thereby raising personal income concerns. Such a scenario is not yet indicated.

Read the entire article

From Seeking Alpha: Housing Collapse 2.0 Continues As Predicted, May 23
For several months, it was mostly just sales that were down. As I said at the time, it would take a while for prices to follow because sellers are highly resistant to dropping the value of their number one asset; so, the squeeze needs to be on for a while for median prices or average prices to fall. Well, the squeeze has been on long enough, and sellers are starting to capitulate to the long drop in demand. 

Prices are falling.
There are other parts of the country where prices are going up, of course, but overall, the trend is down for sales and starting to move down now for prices. Prices had risen in most parts of the country to the same housing bubble heights of the last time around.

Read the entire article.
My take:
From everything's rosy, to gloom and doom. What are we to think? But it pays to watch these markets because they are indicators of where the economy is headed. While new home sales fell in April, I'm not seeing all the gloom and doom yet.

The housing market where I live in Austin remains strong, but is becoming expensive. It pays to be aware of trends. I don't see a bubble and collapse, but anything can happen. I have five percent of my portfolio in real estate, so my exposure is limited. And watch stocks like Home Depot and Lowe's. They can be an indicator also.

This chart is not pointing to a gloom and doom scenario -- yet.

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