HOME PRICE IMPROVEMENT STOPS - TIME TO PAY ATTENTION

It's a shortened holiday week so volume and newsflow are naturally light. That said, no one seems to be paying attention to the fact that this morning's October home price data from Case-Shiller showed the first outright home price decline in six months.

 

HOME PRICE IMPROVEMENT STOPS - TIME TO PAY ATTENTION - JS1

 

Why is this a big deal? It was the decline in home prices that triggered the credit and liquidity crisis of 2007-2009, and the stabilization and modest improvement in home prices that played a major role in the rally since March. The following chart demonstrates.

 

In 1Q09 encumbered US home equity value approached zero. Zero. Since then, the modest advance in home prices coupled with a roughly 2% paydown in residential mortgage debt has pushed equity levels back to the mid-single digits. If we start to see home prices rollover again for a second dip (as the above chart may be an early indicator of), expect to see this razor-thin equity cushion pushed back to zero and the trouble to begin anew. Even though people are now paying off mortgage debt on a net basis, it is only at a 1-2% annualized rate - not enough to move the needle. Rather, it is home prices that drive where equity, and, by extension, credit go.

 

HOME PRICE IMPROVEMENT STOPS - TIME TO PAY ATTENTION - JS2

 

Josh Steiner

Financials