Saturday, July 02, 2005

Housing: Boston is Looking Peaked

by Bill McBride on 7/02/2005 12:00:00 AM

Many housing commentators have been looking to the UK and Australia housing markets as leading indicators for the US housing market. Now the housing bust may have reached the US shores: Boston is looking peaked.

In Massachusetts, the number of home sales dropped last month: Mass. home sales plunge 11.1 percent

There were about 36,259 homes on the market last month, or a supply of 8.8 months, a figure generally thought to be favorable to buyers, experts said.
That is worth repeating; the supply of existing homes is now 8.8 months in Massachusetts. And that is exactly how many commentators felt the bubble would end:
Economists say this combination - higher prices amid lower sales volume - is precisely what you'd see in a bubble that's dying.
And what happens when buyers use excessive leverage and can't sell? Massachusetts Foreclosure Filings Jump As Values Soar
Because of high housing prices, many first-time homebuyers have been using new, risky mortgage products that hold down costs in the early years of a loan, but they can face difficulties if payments rise later. In addition, people who already own homes have been tapping into rising property values to borrow money at historically low interest rates for college tuition, home improvements, credit-card debt, or other financial needs.

"When you tie all these factors together - the bubble in the real estate market, the popularity of interest-only loans, the willingness of lenders to give loans without a significant down payment, the lowering of standards for lenders, and the deep desire of people to own something priced beyond their means - you have a recipe for disaster," said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, whose office oversees the registries of deeds in a majority of the state's 14 counties. "That's what you're seeing in the Land Court."
And finally a quote from Bill Gross from Saturday's New York Times:
"... if housing prices stop going up, which would be my forecast, that makes a substantial difference. Individuals have banked on that appreciation every year. You should come to a point where owners of houses realize we're in never-never land and stop buying on a speculative basis. Markets many times fall of their own weight. That's what happened with the Nasdaq in 2000."
And maybe that's what is happening in Boston. Should we sound the alarm? The British Bust is coming!