Thursday, January 27, 2011

California Shadow Inventory Report - Q4 - 2010

This is a simple graph to show the accumulation (or lack thereof) of REO inventory. When the blue line is above the green line REO inventory could be accumulating. I say "could be" because the green line is merely the number of homes sold during the quarter that were foreclosed in the past 12 months, so investors trustee flips would be captured in the data as well. I think the blue line will elevate somewhat but the two lines will stay pretty close as it makes little sense to foreclose and not market the home.I am very doubtful of the tsunami theory simply because the government has said it is not what they wish to happen and they have gone to great lengths for it not to happen. What we will have instead is stagnation in the market for a very very long time.

As you can see with the above graph, there was a drawdown in REO inventory in Q4. The net drawdown is about ~2000 homes. Sales were ultra low but homes taken back by the bank were even lower. I am sure this is no coincidence. REO inventory sells very well and the robosigning issue slowing down trustee sales had to have an impact in Q4.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Rents appear to be bottoming in many areas. Here are a couple data points (all emphasis mine).

Jon Lansner:

Rents in Southern California fell 0.2% for all of 2010, by math from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that is based on a survey of renters. It’s the first drop since 1995. And the previous drop was in 1941.

But renters should be aware that landlords appear to be regaining some pricing power. The local CPI shows that rents rose on a year over-year basis in the last four months of the year. December’s 1.1% jump vs. a year earlier was the largest annual rate of rent increases in 16 months.

From Calculated Risk (here and here):

Rent growth is mostly from reduction in concessions. Not as much top line growth.

• Almost all areas are showing improvement.

• Walt Smith, CEO Riverstone Residential (manages 162,000 units) said it is "Pedal to the metal" on rents


The overwhelming sense from participants is "YES" the apartment recovery is real. One data point - There are a record number of attendees this year.

The expectations are for a record low supply completed this year (as Tom Lawler and I have noted before). Some pickup in completions next year (2012), and then plenty of completions in 2013. The starts will probably pickup later this year, although I'll know more at a later session. The pickup in starts will help both GDP and employment growth this year.

The expectations are for strong rent growth over the next two years (around 5% per year) for large upper tier apartments. This will keep the vacancy rate from falling too much as owners trade off rent increases for occupancy.

When rents are falling the buying decisions becomes much less favorable. If rent vs own prices are in the ballpark and rents start increasing, obviously the purchasing decision becomes much easier. But in many areas renting vs owning is still much cheaper and so rental growth is something to watch but not something that will push you into needing to buy right away.

Ventura County December 2010 Home Sales

Dataquick reported home sales for Ventura County for December 2010. Home sales came in at 761 down 15.1% YoY and up 27.4% MoM. The median sales price came in at $355,000 down 1.4% YoY and down 5.3% MoM. This is still more of the same, horrible sales and a stagnant market. Nothing is really changing much on the demand or supply side so it's just a grind.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Changes coming to the blog

Now that I have bought I'll actually have more time for the blog. The bad news is some of the data I post comes from the MLS and I won't be continuing my membership as it is expensive and I have no real need to have MLS access anymore. This means the weekly inventory reports (which have been on hold since early December) and first of the month sales reports wont be published. I will attempt to find a replacement data source to create new data sets or continue the old ones.

Short Sale & Foreclosure for Ventura County - December 2010

Here are the sales for Ventura County December 2010. Based on me taking statistics a bit later than usual and adjusting for recent changes in the underlying data sources I think the Dataquick number will be around 700 for December. While historically low sales, relative to the past few months that is a strong showing. There is a couple of different reasons I can see for the late surge. First the interest rate surge from 3.875% for a 30yr fixed to 4.750% would prompt those with locks to hurry up and close, this would also scare the sellers to take a slightly lower price now rather than a greater lower price later. Secondly it appears the banks were clearing some REO inventory at the end of the year with the strongest REO sales since October of 2009. The banks may have been worried about the interest rate surge or just trying to clear up the books and take some losses to offset some profits. If these theories are true neither of them suggest a durability or robustness to the market just a pull forward of demand.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why did I buy now?

Someone asked my motivation for buying right now. I clearly don't think this is the bottom in home prices. There clearly is a lot of distressed inventory on the sidelines yet to come on market. So why buy?

I promised myself a couple years into this (I started house hunting in late 2005) that I wouldn't try to time the ultimate bottom. I would just pick some parameters (area, age of home, square feet, etc) and when those parameters were met relative to a rent / debt service ratio and debt service amount I had selected that I would buy. Mortgage rates hitting 4% helped the debt service side of the equation and ultimately a seller accepted my offer during a slow time of year where most transactions that are being made are because of seller compromising on price.

There were personal financial factors that also led me into thinking that this wouldn't be a horrible spot to fix costs in time. Also knowing that I would be in this house for a long time helped sway the decision. I'm well aware that the mortgage interest deduction is on the firing line but I am betting that it's repeal will apply to loans above the conforming loan limit. That is if it gets passed at all. I've also planned on it being appealed completely but that would make the purchase decision less favorable over renting but not so much that I couldn't handle the difference.

My view of the economy has gotten much less bearish and in some ways bullish and that helps the purchase go/no go decision. We clearly have a lot of things to get through as a country but the fight now is really how much inflation are we going to have as opposed to an inflation/deflation argument in which taking on long term debt is a much dicier proposition. Growth is happening, and whether that growth is organic or only happening because of the Fed printing money is irrelevant. In the former scenario we are in a true recovery and in the latter scenario I don't see the Fed stopping printing if they think the recovery would falter.

I'm of course not thrilled with the price I paid for the house but the low mortgage rate takes the sting out a bit. Rates have spiked 75bps since I locked and that would mean the same house would be $200-300 more a month. That would be almost the same as getting the same house today for $50,000 cheaper (property tax drops so it isn't 100% the same).

When prices fall in the future some may ask if I am pleased or displeased with my purchase. Financially, it would come down to what is going on with rents and interest rates. There are scenarios where I would still come out ahead by buying now. The numbers were close enough that if you erred on the side of inflation it looks like all the numbers work (I'm talking 1 to 2% not any rampant inflation scenario which makes taking on long term debt a trivial proposition).

Renting during the boom turned out to be a good decision. I don't expect that the buying decision will compare as clearly favorably that renting did during the boom/bust but I don't expect it to be a huge mistake either but it could be a small/medium mistake. Only time will tell.

If you have any other questions please post in the comments.

San Fernando Valley home sales report - November 2010

San Fernando Valley Single Family Home sales for November 2010 came in at 470 which is down 11.65% MoM and down 19.24% YoY. This is the fourteenth straight month of YoY declines and the second worst November on record for Single Family Home sales. The median price for single family homes came in at $385,000 which is even MoM and down 2.53% YoY. The market is completed stagnated, the administration is keeping the motivated inventory generally off the market and there is no market clearing event so sales and buyers choices will continue to be horrible going forward. New pendings last month were at levels suggesting December will come in below November levels.

Condo sales came in at 178 which is up 5.95% MoM and down 11.31% YoY. Median price for condos came in at $210,000 which is down 4.54% MoM and down 6.66% YoY. Relative to SFH condos have been performing better but that is because there is more motivated condo supply than SFH. Sales are still horrible in historical context, just not as bad as SFH.

Based on November pendings (green line) the predictor (red line) suggest sales for December coming in lower than November.

Ventura County November 2010 Home Sales

Dataquick reported home sales for Ventura County for November 2010. Home sales came in at 592 down 20.6% YoY and down 3.5% MoM. The median sales price came in at $375,000 up 2.7% YoY and up 5.6% MoM. Slowing sales and rising median is an indication of the low end falling away while the high end volume holds up a bit better. Volume is the better indicator for the health of the market and volume has been horrible. At the same time inventory is restricted and so we just have this stagnant slowly grinding lower market.

And we're back!

Sorry for the delay. Posting will resume now. I'll attempt to catch up old posts.