The Housing Chronicles Blog: Home prices to hit bottom by summer '09?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Home prices to hit bottom by summer '09?

Yes, it is true that we've constantly been hearing false predictions of when the housing market will hit bottom, both in terms of sales, but more importantly in terms of price. I always tend to consider the source of such predictions, and generally discount those from trade groups such as the NAR or the MBA and give greater credence to universities and private data companies.

But at a recent forum sponsored by Standard & Poor's and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, a panel of economists actually agreed that we should be seeing some pricing stability return to the market by next summer. From a story:

Several panelists, including's chief economist Mark Zandi, Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) economist Charlie Himmelberg, S&P managing director David Blitzer and S&P senior economist Beth Ann Bovino all agreed that home prices would stabilize sometime during the summer of 2009.

"The bottom of the housing market is coming into view," said Zandi, whose recent book "Financial Shock," examines how the subprime mortgage crisis occurred. "House prices, based on the S&P Case-Shiller index, are down 20% peak-to-trough and I expect them to fall another 5% to 10%."

"The key is housing affordability," Zandi said. "The [price] decline is beginning to restore affordability, which is now near its long-term average. In some places, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Orange County, affordability has been restored and those markets have stabilized."...

One piece of good news noted was home sales volume. The number of homes sold each month has already leveled off nationally, staying within a narrow range nearly every month this year at an annualized rate of about 5.5 million units a year.

Bovino said her forecast for home price decline is slightly more bearish than Zandi's, mostly based on S&P's belief that the country is now in a recession. With the economy struggling, job losses rising and a tough lending environment, she expects prices to fall another 10%.

"We think there will be an overshoot [with prices going beyond their logical bottom]," she said, in part because so many buyers are afraid to get into the market. "Nobody wants to catch a falling knife," she said.

And after prices do bottom out, Himmelberg expects them to remain fairly flat for a year or so...

The panelists were careful to couch their optimism with caveats. Zandi, for example, points out that there is a lot of uncertainty about the fate of Fannie and Freddie, in the wake of their government takeover.

There is some speculation that the companies will be downsized by a new administration after the presidential election in November.

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