Friday, June 20, 2008

Chris Thornberg: Possible 50% House Price Declines in SoCal

by Bill McBride on 6/20/2008 10:24:00 AM

From Jon Lansner at the O.C. Register: SoCal home woes could mean 50% price drop

[Economist Chris] Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics and former UCLA economics professor, said home prices would have to fall about 40% from peak to trough to return to the historical norm. But add in the impact of rising gasoline prices, the subprime mortgage meltdown and rising foreclosures, and it’s likely prices will fall 50% peak to trough.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index shows that prices for the L.A./O.C. area are down 24% from the peak, so the region is about halfway to the bottom, Thornberg said.

In Orange County, price declines will be more severe at the bottom of the price spectrum than the top end, but “the top end is going to get hit, (too),” he said.

That will be a rude awakening for many homeowners suffering from what he called “homallucinations,” or the ability to convince oneself that while the price of everyone else’s home will fall, your neighborhood is clearly different.
I think Dr. Thornberg is optimistic on the timing (he sees the price bottom in mid-to-late 2009). This might be true for low end areas, but I expect prices in the mid-to-higher end areas to be a little more sticky - so the price declines might take a few more years.