The Coming Mortgage Crisis: Part II

Things are different this time. That is what I argued in my previous post on the coming mortgage crisis. Exploding option ARMs will lead to record foreclosures, which will cause house prices to further decline, which will cause many households to have negative equity. Rather than pay mortgages that are larger than house values, people will simply walk away.

One additional factor that will cause great harm to the housing market is that many stated income loans fraudulently overstated income ( I almost committed mortgage fraud myself). Bond insurers and buyers of RMBS and CDOs will force these back onto the balance sheets of investment banks and mortgage originators, leading to a further decrease in lending and an increase in lending standards. This will increase the cost of buying a house and put further downward pressure on house prices. The Market Ticker blog has a good discussion of this problem and the harm it will cause to banks.

Following are a couple more graphs to support my case that the bubble is nowhere near finished deflating. The first is the average house price to income ratio across the US, courtesy of PIMCO.

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The second is a beautiful graph of home prices in every city in the Case/Shiller home price index. This comes courtesy of The Mess that Greenspan Made blog.

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You can see from this graph that home prices have a long way to go before they return to pre-bubble levels. Cleveland and Detroit are back to the 2000 price levels, but the fundamental deterioration in those cities means that prices should fall further. Detroit and Cleveland have had declining populations for a number of years, and that trend continues. It is predicted that Detroit will continue to lose population and have only 705,000 residents in 2035, down from 890,000 in 2005.

Disclosure: I own real estate in St. Louis and Chicago. I have a short position in a land development company. I have a full disclosure policy.

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