The National Association of Realtors recently reported that the majority of consumers believe that we may be in a housing bubble. That survey can be read here. As home prices continue to increase and appreciation is in double digits, it makes sense to worry about a bubble. This market is, however, vastly different from previous markets. In fact, in my 30+ years in the business, this market is unlike any I have ever seen. Here are 4 reasons why this is not a housing bubble.
Affordability measures three components: the price of the home, wages earned by purchasers, and mortgage rates. Conventional lending standards say that a borrower should not spend more than 28% of their gross income on their mortgage payment. Fifteen years ago, home prices were high, wages were low, and mortgage rates were over 6%. Homes were not affordable. Today, home prices are still high. Wages, however, have increased, and mortgage rates are still low. This means that the average purchaser today contributes less of their monthly income toward their mortgage payment than they did when the US hit the last houses bubble. Affordability isn’t as strong as it was last year, but it’s much better than it was during the boom.
During the housing bubble, it was much easier to get a mortgage than it is today. As an example, the number of mortgages granted to purchasers with credit scores under 620 was much higher. According to credit.org, a credit score between 550-619 is considered poor. In defining those with a score below 620, they explain:
Mortgage standards are nothing like they were during the last housing boom. Purchasers that acquired a mortgage over the last decade are much more qualified.
The volume of mortgages issued to purchasers with a credit score of less than 620 during the housing boom was much higher than it has been in the 14 years since that boom.
In 2020 and 2021 there were a large number of homeowners impacted by the forbearance program, which was created to help homeowners who were facing uncertainty during the pandemic. However, there are currently fewer than 800,000 homeowners left in that program, and most of those will be able to work out a repayment plan with their banks. Foreclosure starts have declined.
Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President of RealtyTrac, explains:
Why are there so few foreclosures now? Today, homeowners are equity rich and not tapped out. In the run-up to the housing bubble, some homeowners were using their homes as personal ATM machines. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up. When home values began to fall, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the amount they owed on their mortgage was greater than the value of their home. Some of those households decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a rash of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at huge discounts, thus lowering the value of other homes in the area.
Homeowners, however, have learned their lessons. Prices have risen nicely over the last few years, leading to over 40% of homes in the country having more than 50% equity. Owners have not been tapping into that equity as was seen in the past. With the average home equity now at $300,000, what happened last time should not happen today. As the latest Homeowner Equity Insights report from CoreLogic explains:
The supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will cause prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued price appreciation. Currently in the Portland Metro Area there is still less than one onth of available inventory. There was an abundance of homes for sale from 2007 to 2010 (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to tumble. Today, the shortage of inventory is causing the acceleration in home values.
Prices are rising because there’s a healthy demand for homeownership as well as a shortage of inventory.
The bottom line is that this market does not seem to be a bubble! Is it sustainable? Stay tuned!