The housing recovery appears to be on track and growing stronger. Home sales and prices are up after reaching bottom in 2010, foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies are dropping, yet housing affordability still remains high.
So why are some analysts and economists concerned?
At a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., panelists said that threats to the housing recovery still remain. The biggest threats they pointed to included:
- Land scarcity: Real estate developers are struggling to find desirable land to start new projects, which is limiting the supply of new homes. A few years ago, banks took ownership of land after developers had foreclosed on some projects. The land is worth less than its original price so banks are reluctant to write off additional losses by selling it too cheaply. Plus, lenders remain cautious about issuing loans for new land purchases.
- House flippers should be cautious: Housing affordability is high mostly due to super low mortgage rates, and investors are taking advantage with intentions of flipping homes for profit. "No doubt you can buy a house today and get a really good price and a low-interest loan,” says Jeff Greene, president of Florida Sunshine Investments. “But if you want to sell that house to somebody two or three years later and rates go up to 5 or 6 percent, how much is he going to pay for that house?"
- Foreign buyers potentially inflating prices: In some markets, strong demand by foreign buyers has helped home prices recover, which has made homes more expensive for Americans in some areas. Some analysts fear that it could even lead to another housing bubble if interest rates started rising quickly as well. Markets like Miami, Los Angeles, and New York are seeing strong demand among foreign buyers. Some say this is a good thing, because it reflects a strong faith in the U.S. market.
- A ‘patchy’ recovery: Some markets are seeing rapid increases with bidding wars, rising prices, and low inventories, while other markets are still at a standstill. For example, Miami’s housing market is “on fire” while 80 miles north in Palm Beach County there’s a “huge glut of housing,” says Greene.
Source: “5 Reasons the Housing Recovery Remains Wobbly,” U.S. News & World Report (May 3, 2013)