More and more economists are predicting a recession is imminent as the result of the pullback in the economy caused by COVID-19. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research:
“A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.”
Bill McBride, the founder of Calculated Risk, believes we are already in a recession:
“With the sudden economic stop, and with many states shutting down by closing down schools, bars and restaurants…my view is the US economy is now in a recession (started in March 2020), and GDP will decline sharply in Q2. The length of the recession will depend on the course of the pandemic.”
How deep will it go?
No one knows for sure. It depends on how long it takes to beat this virus. Goldman Sachsanticipates we will see a difficult first half of the year, but the economy will recover in the second half (see below):Goldman also projects we’ll have “further strong gains in early 2021.”
This aligns with the projection from Wells Fargo Investment Institute:
“Once the virus infection rate peaks, we expect a recovery to gain momentum into the final quarter of the year and especially into 2021.”
Again, no one knows for sure how long the pandemic will last. The hope is that it will resolve sometime over the next several months. Most agree that when it does, the economy will regain its strength quickly.
*QUARTER 1 DATA FROM GOLDMAN SACHS WAS UPDATED FROM 0% TO -0.2% ON 3/17/20 AFTER THE INITIAL RELEASE.
This virus is not only impacting the physical health of Americans, but also the financial health of the nation. The sooner we beat it, the sooner our lives will return to normal.
With all of the havoc being caused by COVID-19, many are concerned we may see a new wave of foreclosures. Restaurants, airlines, hotels, and many other industries are furloughing workers or dramatically cutting their hours. Without a job, many homeowners are wondering how they’ll be able to afford their mortgage payments.
In spite of this, there are actually many reasons we won’t see a surge in the number of foreclosures like we did during the housing crash over ten years ago. Here are just a few of those reasons:
The Government Learned its Lesson the Last Time
During the previous housing crash, the government was slow to recognize the challenges homeowners were having and waited too long to grant relief. Today, action is being taken swiftly. Just this week:
- The Federal Housing Administration indicated it is enacting an “immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages” for the next 60 days.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced it is directing Fannie Mae and Freddie Macto suspend foreclosures and evictions for “at least 60 days.”
Homeowners Learned their Lesson the Last Time
When the housing market was going strong in the early 2000s, homeowners gained a tremendous amount of equity in their homes. Many began to tap into that equity. Some started to use their homes as ATM machines to purchase luxury items like cars, jet-skis, and lavish vacations. When prices dipped, many found themselves in a negative equity situation (where the mortgage was greater than the value of their homes). Some just walked away, leaving the banks with no other option but to foreclose on their properties.
Today, the home equity situation in America is vastly different. From 2005-2007, homeowners cashed out $824 billion worth of home equity by refinancing. In the last three years, they cashed out only $232 billion, less than one-third of that amount. That has led to:
- 37% of homes in America having no mortgage at all
- Of the remaining 63%, more than 1 in 4 having over 50% equity
Even if prices dip (and most experts are not predicting that they will), most homeowners will still have vast amounts of value in their homes and will not walk away from that money.
There Will Be Help Available to Individuals and Small Businesses
The government is aware of the financial pain this virus has caused and will continue to cause. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported:
“In a memorandum, Treasury proposed two $250 billion cash infusions to individuals: A first set of checks issued starting April 6, with a second wave in mid-May. The amounts would depend on income and family size.”
The plan also recommends $300 billion for small businesses.
These are not going to be easy times. However, the lessons learned from the last crisis have Americans better prepared to weather the financial storm. For those who can’t, help is on the way.
Things are happening rapidly. Just three days after the March 2020 Housing Market Update on the 17th, everything changed. On March 20 Governor Cuomo issued the New York State on PAUSE Executive Order. One day later, Governor Murphy announced a Statewide Stay at Home Order for New Jersey. And even though our physical offices are closed, Green Team Realty sales associates and support staff are all working remotely.
March 2020 Housing Market Update
Geoff Green, President of Green Team Realty, welcomed everyone to the webinar. He began by discussing last month’s Housing Market Update. One month ago on the February 2020 HMU, things were looking great. The stock market was nearing all-time highs. One month later the coronavirus had set in. Now everything is different.
We are in historical times now. And the panel will try to break it apart and make some sense of what’s happening. The panel includes a mortgage expert and financial expert, in addition to sales associates from Green Team New Jersey Realty and Green Team New York Realty.
Mortgage rates are extremely low and there are lots of good programs that help people buy a home. Looking at rates from 2016 to today, they are now historically low. Things are fluid now. The Central Bank is in flux, determining 10 year treasure rate. There is a correlation between the treasury rates and 30 year mortgage rates, but they are not one and the same. Laura Moritz, the panel’s mortgage professional, reiterated that. The treasury rates that you hear about on the news do not translate to mortgage rates. Reach out to your mortgage professional to find out what the rates are for your current financial situation.
Some Other Positives
According to ShowingTime, at the start of the year there was a 20.2% increase in showings. 2020 was off to a great start. Geoff sees this as a positive. After we get through this tough period of time these numbers should bode well.
A Mixed Bag
Crude prices present a mixed bag. We are experiencing the single largest decline in the history of crude oil prices. This is due to an oil-price clash between Saudi Arabia and Russia. On the positive side, we’re potentially paying less at the pump and to heat our homes. On the negative side, those companies involved in the oil industry stand a chance of going out of business, defaulting and impacting banks that financed their operations. Without banks lending money, the housing market cannot move forward.
The Coronavirus and the Real Estate Market
The CDC and the White House, during their press briefing, seemed to indicate that this would not be over anytime soon. A lot of school districts, local business leaders, politicians may be saying “For the next few weeks this is going to happen.” However, Geoff’s sense from the briefing was that this halt of movement will actually be prolonged until this virus is truly contained.
Therefore, we need to find ways to operate responsibly and respectfully, to keep the housing market in check and not experience a complete crash.
Impact on Stock Market
Just a month ago the Dow Industrial Average was wavering between an incredible 29,000 and 30,000. The take-away at that time was that 2020 was going to be a great year, as long as there wasn’t a major global crisis. During the February Housing Market Update, Geoff mentioned that he thought the coronavirus might become that global crisis. Within a few days of that the virus began to quickly spread globally. The day before the March 2020 Housing Market Update, the Dow dropped 3,000, its worst day since 1987. And now, the global economy is at a standstill.
A Commercial Real Estate Bubble?
One thing that not many people are talking about yet is the Commercial Real Estate Bubble. Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor, is betting on the commercial real estate market being in a bubble and about to crumble. That is a big deal as banks are heavily involved in commercial real estate and lending. This is a situation we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Local Housing Market Stats
Units sold was lower than preceding years for the month of February, while it had been higher during January. That kind of fluctuation is not uncommon and when averaged out, it’s right in the mix. Sales prices came out way ahead of previous years, much the result of low inventory. Ask to sold ratio is still at a very high percentage. That means sellers on average are only negotiating 3% off their last asking price. Days on market has gone up a little, which generally means a slowing of the market. At this pre-coronavirus stage, there were some indications that the market was slowing a little.
Units sold in Sussex County were a mixed bag. Not quite as high as 2018, but a little higher than 2019. Average price is up, and ask to sold ratio is at 97%, As in Orange County, days on market is going up, again indicating a slowing in the market.
As Real Estate Professionals, what can we do during this crisis?
Whether you’re a home owner, potential buyer or realtor, we all need to take this seriously. Geoff mentioned that one of the doctors on the coronavirus news briefing on March 16 said that this is all about the Greatest Generation. Many of the people who are dying from the coronavirus are from the World War II generation. And we owe it to them to try to safeguard their health. We have to make sure we’re doing the right thing.
We have to make sure we’re watching the WHO and CDC guidelines and operating within those confines. Some countries are shutting down, others are not. Geoff’s take away is no more group meetings. If you are having symptoms, then you and your household must self-quarantine. If you’re a real estate agent and you have symptoms, take it seriously. Do not show homes, do not pretend you’re asymptomatic.
For those sales agents who do not have symptoms and have not been exposed to the virus, Geoff recommended the following. Tell sellers who might be concerned about buyers coming into their homes that we will do personal showings and greet the potential buyer and buyer’s agent at the door. Make judgment call if you think they might be ill. Walk them through the home, opening doors, closets, etc., then wipe them down before leaving.
Video tours provide a good alternative, if necessary. Buyers are never physically in the property. The sales associate, with boots on the ground, walks them through, using video conferencing.
Before opening the discussion up to the panel, Geoff had one more thing to say… WE WILL PREVAIL!
Meet our Panel
From left to right, Laura Moritz, Clasic Mortgage; Ken Ford, Warwick Valley Financial Advisors
From left to right, Kristi Anderson, Green Team New Jersey Realty, Keren Gonen, Green Team New Jersey Realty, Angela Murphy, Green Team New York Realty
Looking for “boots on the ground,” Geoff first asked the sales associates what was happening with ShowingTime. Were people continuing to want to see homes, were they cancelling? Kristi stated that she was still getting lots of showings on her properties. Personally she showed 8 different prospects homes over the weekend. It’s very busy still at this point. Keren had two cancellations over the weekend, then got calls from a brand new client she showed homes to. And just the day before she showed one client eight properties. Angela agreed that not only are people viewing homes, they’re purchasing homes. Six out of ten homes she had showed to buyers had accepted offers within a week. Kristi added that she had two properties go to contract this day.
Geoff stated it’s interesting that the housing market in total – sales, exchange of real property, renovations, maintenance, etc. roughly equates to almost 20% to 25% of national GDP. It is a major force, economically speaking. His hope is that the housing market will stay relatively healthy during all this. If we do go into recession, it may not be that deep and that bad. He asked Ken for his opinion on this.
Are we heading towards a recession?
Ken first talked about the history of recessions. He said this is the longest period that the US has gone without a recession. The last was 2008/2009, the period of the great financial crisis. And we’ve never gone a decade without one. Going back 150 years of data, we’ve had one or two recessions each decade. Recessions can be healthy, weeding out the excesses of economic expansion. Our economic expansion has been built on more debt, more credit, low interest rates and the Federal Reserve pumping money into the economy. The saying goes, the bigger the boom, the bigger the bust. And the last ten years have been the biggest boom he’s ever seen.
If liquidity and the financial markets seize up like they did in 2008, then we are going to have a recession. The Fed dropped the interest rate to 0%, providing lots of liquidity. They’re trying not to repeat 2008, but Ken is not sure they’ll be able to do it. We don’t have any stimulus that can jump start the economy. Plus we have a trillion dollar deficit, so where do we go from there? If we start losing confidence in the market, there will be a problem. Greed and fear often drive decisions. However, he said if you know how to value assets and have the capital there will be some great investment opportunities going forward. And Ken does believe that we’re headed for a recession, with everything shutting down, people working from home, unable to go to stores, restaurants, etc.. It’s just a question of how bad the recession will be.
From the lender’s perspective
Geoff asked Laura for her thoughts. She reiterated what Geoff had said. We’ve survived bad times before. And, unlike the big cities, a lot of people are looking to move to less densely populated areas. Our proximity and distance from major cities are important factors. From a lender’s perspective, she had four accepted offers the day before. She does see buyers putting offers in, and she had three closings this week. On the other hand, she does see evidence of the banks tightening up. Putting down 3% or 0% may not be feasible. Property values may be depreciating in the short term, larger down payments may be required. People still need a roof over their heads, so it’s different than the commercial market that Geoff described before.
Laura said that she’s been inundated with calls from people wanting to refinance they’re mortgages. She closed ten last month. However, right now banks do not want to refinance mortgages and are pricing them accordingly. They don’t want to compromise their portfolios. If you want to refinance, you may have to hold on. Geoff said that one of the strengths, compared to 2008, is the level of equity in homes, in general. A lot of households don’t have a mortgage, and a lot have a pretty low loan to value ratio. He hopes that the housing market, which caused the 2008 financial collapse, is now carrying the U.S. economy. We’ve been in a boom compared to the rest of the world.
Can a strong housing market make a recession not hurt as much as last one?
Geoff asked if it’s fair to say that the U.S. housing market might actually make this recession not hurt as much as the last time?
Ken replied that he was looking at something that was the best indicator of valuation of residential housing. The Case-Shiller Index shows that with real estate in Warwick, you can’t buy the same house in Greenwich, CT. You can’t buy the same square footage, etc. The denominator is the income of the town you live in; the value of real estate divided by the average income. It is higher than 2007/2008. We have a higher valuation than what they deemed to be a housing bubble.
Geoff believes low mortgage rates and low inventory, providing supply and demand, has driven real estate value up. He believes there is still so much demand, without the supply. Ken said if we wind up with inflation, mortgage rates will go up. Income inequality is a major problem. Interest rates drive the pricing power of all assets.
Impact of the job market
Geoff said it will all boil down to people having jobs and having confidence to buy a home. The job market is another interesting discussion. The number of layoffs that might occur during this halting of movement will be of interest. He hopes that companies will hang on to cash flow to keep their employees on. He said that is what they’re doing at Green Team. Everyone is working remotely, and they haven’t dialed back on staff. They’re trying to do more with what they have and hope other businesses do the same.
Ken said it all comes back to the stock market. The biggest cost of any corporation is the employees. If stock plummets and earnings go down, the CEO or CFO of major corporations will normally cut employees. Decision makers start laying people off when revenue and earnings go down. As financial planner he tells people to have emergency savings, just in case they are laid off from their jobs.
Wrapping it up
Geoff thanked everyone for their participation. The take-away is, if you’re a seller worried about putting your home on the market because of what is going on, for market reasons get your home on the market now. The market is still very robust, as Kristi, Keren and Angela had stated. We don’t know what the future holds, so why wait? If you’re concerned for health reasons, that is understandable. There might be ways around that, as well. He suggested talking to a Green Team realtor, such as Kristi Anderson, Keren Gonen or Angela Murphy. Regardless, this is what realtors do… find ways to make it happen. For buyers, there may be some unique opportunities.
We have no choice but to keep going. Keren added that she listed a house on Saturday and the next day had three full-priced offers. Good houses are selling. Have trust that we can get this done for you.
Laura added, with everyone staying together, being with their families, they’ll re-evaluate priorities. And what is the heart of the family? Their home. Extended families may blend, people will find comfort in their homes. She feels in that regard, this will be good in our market.
Geoff Green, President of Green Team Realty, welcomed everyone to the February 2020 Housing Market Update held on Tuesday, February 18 at 2 p.m.. Topics to be discussed include the coronavirus and its potential impact, as well as the upcoming elections and local stats. If you missed the webinar, click here to watch it now.
The above graphic reflects the views of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. In 2018, 67% of economists thought that by the end of 2020 there would be a recession. As early as October of 2019, that number was 34.2%. However, in January of 2020, that number was down to 14.3%.The economy seems to be outpacing the expectations of many who are watching a variety of analytics very closely.
Shrinking supply, rising prices
There is no question that the housing market did end red-hot in 2019.. Prices are continuing to rise, inventory is still low. While builders are more optimistic, they are still not meeting demand. Later, Geoff and David Willner, a home inspector, will be sharing thoughts on why more new construction houses aren’t happening.
2019 Home Sales in every region
In 2019 existing home sales were increasing year-over-year in every region. There was also an increase in new construction in 2019 over 2017 and 2018. Everything was increasing throughout 2019, and is expected to continue through 2020.
Inventory continues to be a problem. This is the lowest level of inventory in at least three decades. The months inventory of homes for sales is 3 months. A normal market is 6 months. a buyer’s market is 9 months. A seller’s market is below 6 months. There is nothing to indicate that this number will increase. It may actually decrease. The only thing that could possible turn that around would be new construction picking up in big ways. However, it is not that easy to bring new houses online with zoning ordinances, etc.
Back in the summer of 2018 we started to see different numbers and wondered if the market would rebound. It has rebounded strongly and price increases are anticipated for 2020. Every state is labeled in blue, indicating prices increasing. Corologic and other companies are predicting price appreciation.
The economy – where is it headed?
According to Jay Bryson, chief economist for Wells Fargo Economics Group, the economy is growing well and the expansion still has room to run. While slowing down a little, the economy is not showing signs of a recession. There is growth of approximately 2.1%. Unemployment rates are steady. We’re at a relatively low rate of inflation. Job growth is good. It does not seem as though anything is poised enough to stop the growth.
2020 numbers for January show units sold at its highest number in the last five years.
Average Sales Price
Average Sales Price is way up. January is showing a remarkable jump. It will be interesting to see how this plays out the rest of the year.
This is the last asking price versus what the property sold for. Again, the number is high. Sellers are only having to negotiate about 2% off the asking price. These are strong numbers. And they mean that buyers don’t have too much leverage in this market.
Days on Market
The lower the number of days, the stronger the seller’s market it is. There has been a downward trend, year-over-year, and we’re starting 2020 at the same low mark as 2019. This is a strong number.
Units sold is same number as 2017. While not starting out at the highest level, it is still a pretty good level for Sussex County.
Average price is up over the last five years, so that’s a good sign for people looking to sell their homes in Sussex County.
This is the last asking price versus what the property sold for. Again, the number is high. Sellers are only having to negotiate about 2% off the asking price. These are strong numbers. And they mean that buyers don’t have too much leverage in this market.
Days on Market
Again, this is the lowest level in five years in Sussex County. Things are going quickly.
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Panelists were Geoff Green, President, Green Team Realty and Dave Willner, Pillar to Post Home Inspections. Before starting off the discussion, Geoff shared a few more stats. According to new stats released by the National Association of Home Builders the confidence index is as high as it’s been since 2008. As we had discussed in the summer of 2018, there was a dip in confidence in home builders. It’s now at its highest in 12 years. Housing starts are at the highest level since 2014.
Geoff introduced Dave Willner and began the discussion with:
Do you foresee anything slowing down the 2020 housing market?
The simple answer was “No!” Dave believes that 2020 is going to be a big year. January started off with a big bang. In January 2020 his company reported its highest earnings in three years. The number of inspections are up. They are seeing a niche in the under $500,000 market. Higher-end homes are not moving as quickly as those selling for $500,000 or less.
Geoff agreed that is definitely true for our area. While in some places, such as New York City and certain areas on the West Coast, $500,000 wouldn’t even buy a “fixer-upper.” Dave said that it definitely depends on the market, but that is what they’re finding here. Geoff also agreed that he doesn’t see anything to indicate that 2020 won’t be a big year. However, he does think that there are some interesting things happening economically on a macro scale that everyone should be aware of.
Economics – the Macro and the Micro
How might the coronavirus on the granular level, impact economics? Geoff shared some of the things he’s learned.
In addition to the coronavirus, there is something happening regarding travel. The Boeing 737 Max was grounded last year. That has had a major impact on the airline industry, which further impacts overall travel spending. There is a “double whammy” happening within the travel industry. Further, travel is a significant segment of the U.S. economy; not something to be dismissed. A micro example would be Corning in Upstate New York. A lot of their revenue is received from people traveling from New York City up to Niagara Falls. As it’s a midway point, a lot of international travelers go to the Corning plant to see how glass is manufactured. So many people have traveled there from China that they have tours in Mandarin. Thus, the coronavirus and the Boeing 737 Max have impacted this local economy.
As real estate is local, there could be a locally impacted market while the nation is booming. Those in travel-related economies should keep an eye on these developments. Dave asked if vacation housing in Orange and Sullivan Counties might be affected as a result of these issues. For example, would more people seek a summer retreat? Geoff didn’t think that market would be especially impacted, since much of the tourism in the area is people traveling from other countries. Second homes are more for people in the NYC/metro area who want to get away for a weekend. He doesn’t necessarily see the coronavirus as impacting that end of the travel spectrum. However, the idea is not to be dismissed. It’s an interesting dynamic to keep an eye on.
The Coronavirus and the Impact of Quarantines
Another aspect of the coronavirus is quarantine. China is literally quarantining cities, shutting down transportation, etc. Not only can people not leave their city. They can’t travel. But many also cannot go to work. Stores are being closed, factories shut down and unable to operate. You are now seeing headlines about Apple revising its earnings. They’re saying the supply chain is being affected because much of their manufacturing is done in China. Not only is demand being impacted by the economy in China, which has been affected by the virus. The supply chain is being impacted as well in terms of production. Further, you have to think about commodities. If factories are not running, you don’t need iron, heavy metals. Commodity prices, such as oil, are dropping.
Globally a lot of things are happening now that many people seem to overlook. Right now, things are good in the United States. However, globally many economies have not been doing so well for the last few years. Hopefully the coronavirus will have reached its peak and begin to dissipate.
The Presidential Election
It will be interesting to see what evolves in this election year. There are candidates who are at the opposite economic spectrum of the Trump administration. And if elected, what would the impact be? It would probably not affect 2020 as the election is not till November. However, needless to say, it’s an issue that should not be dismissed.
Trade agreements with Canada and Mexico and China will also impact the economy. Again, it will be interesting to see the impact of global factors.
Keren Gonen joins the conversation
Keren Gonen of Green Team New Jersey Realty joined the panel discussion. Having just arrived from a closing, Geoff filled Keren in on what had been discussed regarding the 2020 market stats. He asked if she agreed with their prediction that 2020 would be a big year. Geoff also talked about inventory pressure and problems. Then he asked what she is seeing now. Keren stated that she’s seeing the same things, and that Spring Market has already started. She’s as busy now as she should be at the end of April. This month alone she has 3 closings. And she’s projecting another 5 closings for next month.
Geoff said that the mild winter might also be a factor. Many people just don’t want to go out and look at homes when it’s raining, snowing, etc. While it has been cold, there has not been a lot of snow to deal with, which helped catapult things. More importantly, interest rates are really low. And that is something that can help offset the high price of homes for some buyers. While the price may be on the high end, it’s what fits the monthly budget that really counts. If that low rate can be locked in buyers can set themselves up for success as home owners.
Wrapping it up
Geoff asked Dave and Keren if they could think of anything that might stop this market from churning as fast as they think it’s going to in 2020. Dave replied it’s about managing the inventory out there. It is definitely a limited-inventory market, and the good deals have been had. Dave has seen a strong influx of people coming up to more rural communities from the city. That’s where many of the buyers are coming from, looking to get out of renter-ship. As long as interest rates stay low, people will continue to buy.
According to Geoff, the Fed is in a holding pattern, neither raising or lowering the federal funds rate that they use to manipulate the economy. It’s interesting that in the last 10-15 years that lever they had, that once meant so much, has little meaning now. Needless to say, it looks like the Fed will hold in place, which just provides more information to consider.
Home Ownership vs. Renting
Keren added that there are plenty of people renting, even in Sussex County, that could actually afford to be home owners. They would pay less for a mortgage than they pay for rent right now. That’s something important to remember. A lot of renters don’t realize they can afford to be homeowners, so they should get in touch with a mortgage broker to see what their options are. In our area, you can pay $800 in a mortgage payment opposed to $1,200 in rent. It’s important to educate people as to what their options are.
Geoff agreed, saying that many people got caught in the downturn of the market 10 or 12 years ago.To them he says, don’t be afraid. Research. Talk to a mortgage professional to see if your income and credit is where it needs to be, and get in the game. Banks who have been renting homes are starting to sell those homes, leaving renters in the lurch. They can’t find other rentals and are in a bad spot. It’s in their best interest to own a home.
Dave remarked that there has been more of a trend for FHA loans. They are no money down essentially. There are lots of options available. Geoff stated that another great thing for this recovery is that you are not seeing a lot of sub-prime lending. That means this recovery is true.
Contact the panelists
Dave Willner, Pillar to Post Home Inspection, 732-647-5231 or email [email protected]
Keren Gonen, Call or text 551-262-4062
Join us at 2 p.m. on St. Paddy’s day for our next Housing Market Update.