2009: Housing Bust or Housing Boom
Its official, the 2nd Qtr of 2009 set the All-Time record for single family home sales, eclipsing the 2nd Qtr of 2005 by a wide margin. Many people don’t realize that the 1st Qtr of 2009 also set the All-Time home sales record, and the 4th Qtr of 2008 was nearly a record. Home sales in June were up 137% over 2008, a trend we’re seeing regularly throughout SW Florida.
The reasons sales are up are numerous. SW Florida has received much International attention which has drawn interest to the area. We’ve sold many more homes this year to Canadians who can now afford to buy some sunshine at affordable prices. We’re also selling more homes to people from up north to use as a second vacation home, another encouraging sign. Perhaps the two largest segments of buyers right now are the 1st-time home buyers and investors.
First-time home buyers are trying to cash in on the chance at the American dream with low interest rates, a potential $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit, and affordable pricing we haven’t seen in years. Most of these buyers were priced out of the market in years past, and now is their chance to live in their own home, cut their own grass, and have their chance at building wealth. That chance is alive and well, as home sale prices today are well below replacement costs, so builders can’t even afford to build at these bargain prices. No builder is willing to lose money right now when a buyer can buy for less that the cost to build. This trend will end when there is no more inventory, and as you can see by last week’s graph, inventory levels are shrinking.
Lastly we come to the investor. Today’s investor is much different than the speculators we saw in 2004-2006. Many of today’s investors are paying cash vs. the over-leveraged speculators who leveraged everything and didn’t qualify for anything but maybe their own personal residence. Today’s investor isn’t looking for the quick flip, although we have seen a few successful flip transactions. Today’s investor recognizes bargains, and they’re buying up properties, rehabbing when necessary, and renting them out for cash flow. In the future, each investor will decide on their own whether they want to sell at normal pricing, or keep the property for positive cash flow. Positive cash flow is a term we never really used to hear much about in SW Florida because it was so hard to accomplish, even before the so called Boom of the 2000’s.
But was the Boom of the 2000’s really the boom? We can say with certainty that prices went up for awhile, before they came crashing back down, giving up all the gains and then some. Some people made money, and a lot of people lost money, including the banks, tax payers, etc. The opportunity to make money was limited to when you could get the new construction completed, and the demand was false. All that happened was the supply side sped up, bringing needed housing to market much sooner than the demand. So today we have more supply than demand, however that will change in time.
Today’s buyer has more opportunities for success going forward than any buyer did in 2005. Sales are stronger in 2009 than they were in 2005. Prices are more affordable, interest rates are low, and there are tax incentives in place now. In fact, we’re hearing that if the economy hasn’t picked up by October, Congress may extend the 1st time home buyer tax credit scheduled to expire Dec 1, and some are saying it should be opened up to move-up buyers as well. We would argue the market in many ways is much healthier today than it was in 2005. Many might ask, how could anyone say this market is healthy? The truth is even with the foreclosures, the market has been cleansing itself for the last 4 years. It may not be healthy today, but would you rather buy a home today or one back in 2005? We would say it would be healthier to buy one today than back then, and most people call back then the Boom.
We think we should change the conversation. 2005 was not the Boom. It was not healthy. There was little to any chance of making money, and first-time buyers couldn’t afford to live here. Nothing was good about the 2005 market, it was all false. So let’s stop calling it the Boom. I don’t know if 2009 is the Boom, but if your definition is record sales, affordable housing, Real opportunities to make money in the future, and healthier lending standards, then this is all true today. It just seems more sensible to call 2009 the Boom than 2005.
If you’re a seller or facing financial difficulty, Boom may not excite you. We’re just saying the last so-called Boom is what started the pain and misery, and it’s going to be real estate that pulls the nation out of recession going forward. Real estate recovery leads to eventual job creation. We may be a few years away from construction jobs coming back to SW Florida, however the market has been well on it’s way to healing itself for years now, and we at least have those painful years in our rear view mirror. I’d much rather be sitting here in 2009 and think of the market as the Boom than back in 2005 thinking everyone was going to make money on their next Flip. Today is the Boom, 2005 was the Bust.
As appeared in Fort Myers News Press August 8, 2009